CELTIC manager Neil Lennon says he may enter the free agent transfer market to sign another central defender after it was revealed Steven Mouyokolo will be sidelined for six months with an Achilles tendon injury.
The 26-year-old Frenchman sustained the damage in training and returned to his homeland for surgery earlier this week.
Former Hull City and Wolves player Mouyokolo joined Celtic in July on a free transfer, signing a one-year contract with an option for a further year. He has made just two first team appearances so far.
Mouyokolo will miss all of Celtic’s Champions League group stage campaign, which begins against AC Milan in Italy next Wednesday night. It leaves Efe Ambrose and Virgil van Dijk as Lennon’s likely first-choice central defensive pairing, although Mikael Lustig and Charlie Mulgrew have both also been deployed there.
“We may look for someone else,” said Lennon. “We are alright at the moment, but it may be important to bring someone in until January.
“It is a devastating blow for Steven. He came to us on trial with no expectation but did really, really well. This injury is totally separate to his previous injuries. It could happen at any time, but it was so innocuous – he was running for the ball and his heel popped. He has completely ruptured the Achilles.
“It can be a worrying injury. But it is a clean rupture, which is good. So he is going to be in a pod for about a month or two. But the physios are pretty confident he will be back in the new year at some stage.”
Lennon also has concerns over winger James Forrest whose sciatic problem has flared up again. He will miss today’s Scottish Premiership meeting against Hearts at Tynecastle and Lennon urged him to be more “honest” about his condition.
Lennon believes Forrest should not have played in Scotland’s match against Belgium last Friday night, the player subsequently missing Tuesday’s win in Macedonia.
“I’m pretty sure Jamesie wasn’t 100 per cent fit when he played for Scotland,” said Lennon. “We have to manage him and, at times, he has to be honest with people.
“James wants to play, but sometimes he is not doing himself any favours by doing so. We are going to manage him over the next few weeks as this is an important few weeks for the club. I need a fit James Forrest because he is so important.
“Basically, it’s an inflamed nerve which runs from the back down through the legs.”