CELTIC last night moved to deny reports that they had made bids for Sunderland winger James McClean and Porto wide man Christian Atsu.
Yesterday afternoon, speculation was rife that the Parkhead club had had a £2.5 million offer accepted for Republic of Ireland internationalist McClean and had launched a £5m move for Atsu.
But a club spokesman issued a categorical “no” when the names of both players were put as possibles for the wildcard signing that Neil Lennon is allowed to bring in before Wednesday’s Champions League qualifier at home to Elfsborg as he seeks to bolster his squad following the loss of leading goalscorer Gary Hooper to Norwich in a £5.2m deal which went through on Friday.
And, after Celtic had been beaten 2-1 at home by Borussia Moenchengladbach in a friendly at Celtic Park, coach Garry Parker – stepping up to take the team with Lennon off watching Elfsborg drawing 1-1 at Åtvidaberg in the Allsvenskan – was tight-lipped over possible arrivals.
“I’ve no idea,” he said when the names of McClean and Atsu were put to him. “We’ve got options, I’m not going to say who they are, but there are people we like. I’d say we’d like to sign another two or three – but that’s down to the manager. We have our sights on a few players and we’ll see what happens.”
A crisp free-kick from striker Anthony Stokes puts him in pole position to perform the Hooper role in the absence of any new signings. The Irishman did not balk at the suggestion it could be his gig last night. “We’ve lost a great player and he was great lad around the club as well but at a club like this it
happens and we have to move and other people have to take the burden and score goals.
“I always try and score as many as possible but we are all going to have to dig in and over the last three or four years we have done that. We have plenty of players who can score goals, even from midfield like Kris Commons who gets you 15 to 20 goals a season.”