ANTHONY Stokes has warned Celtic that they will need to crank up contract negotiations or risk losing him for nothing.
The striker, who has been given a more pivotal role since the departure of Gary Hooper in the summer, is out of contract at the end of the season but says he is still in the dark over his future at the club and will listen to outside offers in January.
“I don’t know what the problem is, I can’t answer that,” said Stokes. “I’m happy here but I’m now getting to the stage where I can sign a pre-contract in a couple of months so if it stays like that I’ll need to see what my options are and take it from there.
“I’ve always said I want to stay but I haven’t got long on my contract and every player wants a bit of security. I’ll sit back and see what happens but there isn’t much I can do other than play my football.”
But his manager, Neil Lennon, is convinced a deal can be done to keep the Irish international at Parkhead.
“It’s not a question that we don’t want him and I don’t want him to run out his contract either. I’m pretty confident we’ll have Anthony signed sooner rather than later.”
There remains a significant financial gap between the club’s offer and the player’s demands, though, and, while Stokes would be delighted to see it bridged, he is aware that he will soon have the freedom to explore other options.
“We’re not really close with the new contract, it’s pretty much the same,” said the 25-year-old. “I turned down the last deal and there’s not really been too much discussion since then. I’ll just sit back and see what happens because I’m enjoying my football at the minute.”
While Lennon believes the club will hold on to Stokes, he has admitted it is only a matter of time before they lose Fraser Forster. The goalkeeper signed a four-year deal last summer but, having impressed time and again on the European stage, attracting the attention of Benfica and, now, apparently Barcelona, he is also being heavily backed to replace Joe Hart as the first-choice England keeper.
“I have got to be realistic and honest and it’s going to be difficult to keep him the way he’s progressing,” said Lennon of his 25-year-old goalkeeper. “That’s no slight on us. I don’t know when it will be down the line but I do hope he goes to one of the big clubs because I think he has got the game for it.”