Hooper: Celtic targets despite transfer speculation

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Gary Hooper has set his sights on another Champions League campaign with Celtic despite speculation over his future.

Celtic rebuffed an offer from Barclays Premier League newcomers Hull City for the striker earlier this summer after rejecting several bids from Norwich City in January.

Hooper has shown little sign of extending his Celtic contract beyond next summer and was expected to move on. But with Celtic’s Champions League campaign beginning in Belfast on 17 July against Cliftonville, the 25-year-old has already set himself 
targets for the new season.

Hooper, who scored 31 goals in all competitions last term, yesterday told Celtic’s official website: “I want to beat my tally from last season. That’s the aim because I’ve done it every season.

“I also have to get 20 or more league goals because I didn’t get it just there, I only got 19.

“I want to play in the Champions League again, get into the group stages and get that feeling again. I know I wasn’t playing in the game against Barcelona but it was still amazing. We also want to retain the title as obviously the league is still our priority.”

Hooper has a new strike colleague in Portuguese target man Amido Balde, whom he played alongside during a 1-0 friendly defeat by Ukrainian side Sevastopol in Germany on Wednesday.

“Amido is solid, he’s a good player,” Hooper said. “He’s quick, he’s strong and he had a good chance the other day that he should have put away, but everyone misses chances. He’s looked good in training.”

Celtic now face Romanian side Cluj today in Germany and Hooper is eager for more action after missing the start of pre-season training.

“I feel good,” the former Scunthorpe striker said. “I missed a week at Lennoxtown because I had a groin problem. But I’m back now, training every day since we’ve been over here and I feel fit.”

Hooper added: “Training has been good this week. We did recovery yesterday, in the pool, and today was a good session. We played a lot of football and everyone is looking sharp.

“It’s really hot here so you need to let the ball do a lot of the work while we get the fitness up. We’ve been doing small sided games in each session and I think that’s better than running because you’re playing and still getting fit. That’s what we all enjoy. It’s all about fitness and ball work just now. We only had three weeks off so the fitness isn’t going to drop that much compared to other teams getting eight weeks off.”

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