CELTIC manager Neil Lennon has expressed his frustration at Norwich City’s £5 million bid for Gary Hooper entering the public domain and remains determined to hold onto his leading scorer beyond the end of the January transfer window.
Lennon confirmed that the Scottish champions had received and rejected the offer from Norwich which he described as “unacceptable”.
Hooper’s agent was at the club’s Lennoxtown training ground yesterday and has been asked to respond to a new contract offer from Celtic for the 24-year-old whose current deal is due to expire in the summer of 2014.
Celtic paid Scunthorpe United £2.4 million for Hooper in July 2010 and he has proved a major success story for Lennon’s team, scoring 69 goals in 115 first-team appearances so far.
Currently the club’s top marksman this season with 18 goals, Hooper has played a key role in Celtic’s progress to the last 16 of the Champions League and is understood to be on the verge of a call-up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad.
The player has inevitably attracted the attention of English Premier League clubs, who can pay considerably higher wages than Celtic, but Lennon says Hooper is keen to remain in Glasgow for the time being.
“Norwich have made a bid and we have rejected it,” said Lennon. “I’m really annoyed that it has come out from down there. We like to do our business privately. I don’t like the thought of them trying to unsettle our player. I’m not going to point any fingers but it’s certainly not come from up here.
“We looked at the bid and rejected it. The valuation is nowhere near what I would value him at. It’s as you were. We spoke to his representatives today and made our position clear. We’ve made an offer to them on a new contract and we are waiting to hear back from them.
“I don’t detect that Gary is unsettled, not at all. He is very happy here. His take on it is that he wants to stay. He wants to play in the Champions League and he wants to have a go at winning all the domestic competitions we are in.
“We can’t stop bids coming in and we can’t stop speculation. Our position is quite strong on this at the minute. We don’t want to sell him and certainly not for the valuation that Norwich have put on him. They possibly knew the bid was unacceptable when they made it, I don’t know. You would have to ask Norwich that.”
Lennon is bracing himself for higher bids for Hooper in the remaining 13 days of the transfer window and accepts that Celtic may yet receive an offer they cannot refuse.
“Everyone has their price,” added Lennon. “I have maintained that all along. Gary knows what we think of him and the club have made it clear to Norwich that their valuation is not acceptable.
“We are probably going to get it again and it might rumble on. But we have made it clear we don’t want to sell him and are waiting on his representatives getting back to us. That’s all I can tell you really.”
Lennon, meanwhile, is hugely enthusiastic about the latest addition to his squad. Australian international midfielder Tom Rogic was signed from Central Coast Mariners for £450,000 earlier this week.
The 20-year-old cannot play for Celtic until his work permit paperwork is completed, but Lennon is confident that he will be worth the wait.
“We are hoping to get the work permit on Monday,” said Lennon.
“Then he’ll have to go back to Australia and get it stamped at the British Embassy. So it will probably be a week to ten days before he is available.
“When he trained with us for a few days, the guys were really impressed with him. So it’s not a massive gamble. I think we have got a good player on our hands, who we can develop and who will be an asset to the team.
“He will come into contention for the first team right away, once we get all the paperwork sorted out. He didn’t look out of place in training and it looks as though he has a good temperament as well.”