CELTIC are closing in on the signing of Rosenborg full-back Birger Meling after confirming the capture of former Southampton striker Jonathan Afolabi yesterday.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was coy about the possibility of bringing Meling to Glasgow after watching his side labour to a 2-1 win over Dunfermline after extra-time in the Betfred Cup.

But the Herald on Sunday understands that Meling is close to agreeing a deal to join the Scottish champions, and he could be unveiled before Celtic’s Europa League play-off against AIK Stockholm on Thursday night.

Lennon’s former teammate and BT Sport pundit Chris Sutton had claimed on television on Friday evening that Celtic were close to landing Meling, but when asked if he was expecting any imminent arrivals, Lennon replied: “Possibly. They might be cup-tied though.

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“Chris Sutton says a lot of things. I wouldn’t take Chris Sutton’s word as gospel.”

Lennon will take his time to assess new arrival Afolabi before pitching the striker into his first-team squad, but says that the forward has ‘good potential’.

The 19-year-old, who signed a two-year deal with the club yesterday, watched from the Celtic Park stands as his new side huffed and puffed their way to the last eight of the Betfred Cup.

And while Lennon was pleased to have brought the Republic of Ireland youth internationalist to Glasgow, he tempered any expectation that he would come straight into the first-team reckoning.

“He’s here,” said Lennon. “He’s a young lad from Southampton, we’ve signed him on a free transfer and he’s one for development.

“He’s on the cusp, so he’ll come in and train with us and we’ll get a good look at him in the next couple of weeks.

“Then we’ll decide what we want to do with him in terms of where his progression is.

“He had a great tournament in the Euros. He’s raw, but we feel he has good potential.”

Lennon expressed pride in his players for coming through an almighty scare against their Championship opponents, as James Forrest’s goal in extra-time saved them from the lottery of penalty-kicks.

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“I am really proud of the players because they had to show a lot of character,” he said.

“I know they were not at their best but that it totally understandable.

“I have been in that situation myself after Champions League games, you can be a bit leggy, but we dominated the game, created loads of chances and didn’t deserve the game to go to extra time. It did and then we showed a lot of character to go on and win the game.

“So, I am delighted at that character, at the patience they showed and I am delighted we are in the next round.

“It was a really good test. You have to give Dunfermline a lot of credit. They came with a game plan and they defended brilliantly.”

There was pride too in the Dunfermline ranks after running the Premiership champions so close, and captain Paul Paton made sure he had a memento of the occasion by snagging Callum McGregor’s shirt for his little girl.

He feels that the Pars can take more from the afternoon than just memories, though he has a tinge of regret they didn’t see out extra-time.

"I thought, 'what an effort, we're going to get to penalties' but Celtic being champions find a way and they did through probably the best player in the country,” said Paton.

“I'm just proud of my own boys, proud of my team, it sets us up well with a lot of confidence for next week against Dundee United.

“To come here, big stadium, I'm a Rangers fan but I feel myself singing the Celtic songs because that my pals that are Celtic fans sing them. So, you get in the mood, you are enjoying yourself but when the game starts it's totally different.

“The boys might never play here again, it might be my last time at Parkhead so I made sure I enjoyed it and I even asked Callum McGregor for his top which is a bit of a surprise. If this is my last time, I'm proud of it.”