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Spiers on Sport: Celtic need Hooper goals – but also profit

Some Celtic fans remain vexed about Gary Hooper’s certain departure from the club, as if there was ever meant to be any other outcome.

If Hooper stays at Celtic until June – which he may well do – then it will be business very well done by the club.

Hooper was bought for £2.2m and, if he leaves Glasgow in the summer, will probably fetch around £8m in the transfer market.

Notwithstanding that Scunthorpe will receive a wedge from this, it will still represent terrific business for Celtic.

Peter Lawwell has modelled Celtic on a buy-to-sell basis and the Hooper association with the club might be its most perfect illustration.

So long as Celtic are mired in the financial constraints of Scottish football, Lawwell knows that one sure way to prosper is by finding and then profiting from young talent in this way.

Hooper was an early prototype in this business plan. So was Ki Sung Yueng, sold to Swansea for £5m and put on £36,000-a-week by the Welsh club.

Victor Wanyama is next in line and possibly Efe Ambrose after him. It is the current Celtic policy.

Hooper, who added two more goals to his tally against Dundee United on Tuesday night (making 22 so far for the season), will have spent three years at Celtic Park come June.

There is nothing fleeting about this that should irk Celtic supporters, yet the club is still set to cash in on the striker.

I’ve said it before: Hooper is no kid any more. He is days away from his 25th birthday and in the form of his life. Why in heavens name, after three good years with Celtic, should he not desire the excitement of the Barclays Premier League?

The striker has absolutely earned his ticket south and is ready for the EPL. It would be viewed, frankly, as perverse if he announced he wanted to spurn England and stay at Celtic.

Neil Lennon is an awkward public spot over Hooper. He loves the striker but knows he has to leave. In fact, Lennon has probably known since the day Hooper signed a four-year deal with Celtic that getting three good seasons out of him might be the most he could hope for.

The Celtic manager has to harrumph in public about agents and the rest, and is currently lamenting the fact that Hooper has turned down a new contract. But Lennon knows the truth: Celtic invested in Hooper, not just for goals, but also for profit.

The club has had his goals: 57 in 82 games so far. It is an excellent return. Now Celtic must make their profit.

Gary Hooper will absolutely hold his own in the Barclays Premier League. Playing in the SPL most surely flatters him but his greater ability is there for all to see. He is a 2-in-3 career goalscorer and has cut it in Europe as well with Celtic.

Norwich City are currently being publicly quoted for the striker but there are bound to be others in for him as well. At least, that will be Lawwell and Celtic’s fervent hope.

“I expect Hooper to still be a Celtic player come February 1,” said Lennon this week, openly hinting at Celtic’s ideal scenario. The club would like Hooper to stay for two lusciously exciting Champions League last-16 ties against Juventus before off-loading him.

The dilemma for Lawwell and Celtic will be if they receive a concrete £8m bid before the end of the January transfer window. In that case, they would be in a jam.

If Hooper continues on this scoring spree between now and May, such an offer will surely come again. But what if he doesn’t? Or what if he gets injured? £8m is good money to turn down.

Lennon and Celtic found a gem in Hooper. Soon it will be time for him to leave. The task for Celtic will be to repeat the trick with another player, and cash in once again.

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