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Lennon: out of contract pair may be moved on

NEIL Lennon will reluctantly try to move Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley out of Celtic next month if he suspects the pair plan to run down the remaining six months of their contracts.

Neil Lennon has admitted Celtic will try to sell Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley in January if they intend to run their contracts down. Picture: SNS
Neil Lennon has admitted Celtic will try to sell Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley in January if they intend to run their contracts down. Picture: SNS

New three-year deals have been on the table for the pair for months, but neither has given any indication about whether or not they are likely to stay. Samaras, 28, has been with Celtic for almost six years and recently has been the subject of reported interest from Hull City. Next summer he will be a member of the Greece squad at the World Cup finals in Brazil. Welsh internationalist midfielder Ledley, 26, has been linked with a return to his former club, Cardiff City, now that they are in the English Premier League.

Lennon admitted neither had given Celtic any update: "You never say never. I've not yet had any indication from either of them about what they want to do and certainly there's also been no indication from their representatives. The longer it goes the more likely it is they'll be leaving.

"I thought after last season both of them would've wanted to stay. But they might have other issues to attend to behind the scenes that we don't know about. It's just part of the game. But we need to know one way or the other pretty soon because we'll have to look for replacements if it is the case that they are going."

Finding buyers for them would allow Celtic to recover limited transfer fees for the pair, who would leave as free agents if they let their contracts expire in the summer. "If they were thinking of running their contracts down, then we'd look to move them on in January to avoid that," Lennon admitted. "They've been excellent players for Celtic. But we're writing their epitaphs here and that's a little bit premature."

Mikael Lustig, the Swedish defender, faces a lengthy spell out after a double hip operation to help him be able to complete a full schedule of weekend and midweek games. "The operation needed a bit more work than first expected and he'll be out for three to four months," said Lennon. "The procedure was successful.

"We knew that this day would come. But with him being out of the World Cup and hoping to get him back in time before the end of the season, we felt this would be a good time to get the procedure done. If you watch him he tends to struggle towards the end of games and usually we've taken him off. He's then found it difficult to recover from midweek to weekend. So this will do him the world of good."

A rare fixtureless midweek for Celtic allowed Lennon to attend the midweek Amstel Cup game between AZ Alkmaar and Heerenveen. Celtic are interested in AZ striker Aron Johannsson - an Icelandic-born American internationalist - and have been long-time admirers of Heerenveen's Alfred Finnbogason. Johansson, 23, would cost around £2.4m while Finnbogason, 24, is rated at around £5m.

"It's fair to say we were over looking at a couple of players and anything else that caught our eye. I'm not saying I'm going to bring either of those two in, but we are looking to bring players in in January."

The Japanese internationalist playmaker Hiroki Yamada has been on trial at Celtic. The 24-year-old from J-League club Jubilo Iwata has made a positive impression but a decision on whether to offer him a deal will be made over the weekend.

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