NEIL LENNON has revealed there is no guarantee that any of the £6 million fee Celtic are poised to receive from the sale of Ki Sung Yueng to Swansea City will be reinvested in his first-team squad before the close of the transfer window.
South Korean midfielder Ki did not travel with Celtic yesterday for the first leg of their Champions League Play-off round tie against Helsinborgs in Sweden tonight as he closed in on a move to the English Premier League. The Scottish champions accepted the offer for the 23-year-old, who was under contract until January 2014, a decision described by manager Lennon as “good business sense”.
He is confident Celtic can cope with the loss of Ki as they bid to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in four years, an achievement which would earn the club around £12 million.
But Lennon was quick to temper any expectations among Celtic’s support that either the sale of Ki or Champions League qualification will allow him to make a significant splash in the transfer market before the end of the month.
With Celtic’s annual accounts expected to show the effects of no recent Champions League football when they are published later this year, the priority in the current financial climate will be to manage the club’s debt which stood at around £7 million when they released their interim accounts in February.
Lennon, whose only piece of incoming transfer business so far this season has been the permanent signing of goalkeeper Fraser Forster from Newcastle United for £2 million, is resigned to the situation and says he would be prepared to go into a Champions League campaign with his existing squad.
“I want to be true to the players who are already here and give them the opportunity to play at that level,” said Lennon. “If we get through, they will be the ones who have got us there. I’ll maybe look at extending the contracts of one or two of them, in terms of a reward for performances over the last couple of years.
“We have identified players we could move for if the funds became available. We’ll just need to see if we have any money to spend at all. It’s been a little bit frustrating so far, but I understand the circumstances.
“Two weeks ago, I decided to forget about bringing anyone in and to just concentrate on what we’ve already got, just go with it and see where it takes us. We have got a good squad and although we are going to lose Ki, it’s not going to put a huge dent in what we already have.
“Selling Ki will help to fund the debt and then we will see where we go after these Champions League qualifiers. I think we have traded quite well. Ki will be a loss, there’s no doubt about that, but I think it’s a loss we can adapt to. I haven’t had him at all this season anyway, as he was away at the Olympics.
“He is a wonderful talent, but it’s business at the end of the day. Every player has his price. This is a good time for him and a good time for us. At the end of the day, it’s good business sense. It keeps everything ticking along nicely for us.
“We were always going to have to sell one player anyway. We always had that in mind from the day we came back to training. You have to be pragmatic about it. At times, you are banging your head against a brick wall. You just have to work with what you have and go with it. You challenge yourself to make it work. That’s where we are at the moment. We develop younger players and eventually move them on. But a lot of clubs are in a similar position. Even Arsenal had to sell Robin van Persie, even though they didn’t really want to. It made business sense.”
According to Lennon, victory over Helsingborgs would be more likely to have an impact on his transfer-market resources next season, rather than the current campaign.
“Getting to the Champions League would probably change things in the transfer market for us next year, because there would be a nice pot of money there which would keep the club stable for quite a while,” he added.
“Then maybe we wouldn’t have to break the squad up. When I say that, I mean sell one player as we are now with Ki. Maybe I’d be able to enhance the squad as well.”
Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins later confirmed that the South Wales club have had a bid accepted for Ki.
“We have agreed a fee with Celtic for Ki,” he said. “We are currently holding discussions with player and agent over personal terms.”
A deal has not yet been agreed and Jenkins is keen to get the transfer completed before he is usurped by any other potential suitors.
“We are aware of other clubs’ interest but we are hopeful we can conclude a deal in the next 24 hours. We feel he is a very exciting young player who has a good career in front of him,” he said.
QPR and recently-promoted Reading have also been linked with a move for Ki, who joined Celtic from FC Seoul in 2009, but it now appears Swansea are the front runners.
Ki, who has 47 international caps, would be joining a side that currently sit second in the Barclays Premier League after celebrating Michael Laudrup’s first competitive game in charge with an emphatic 5-0 victory at QPR on the opening day of the new season.
He was also part of the South Korea Olympic football squad and scored the fifth penalty in his nation’s quarter-final
shoot-out victory over Team GB, which contained current
Swansea players Neil Taylor and Scott Sinclair.
Ki would become Laudrup’s seventh summer acquisition following the transfers of Spanish duo Michu and Chico as well as Arsenal defender and former Rangers loanee Kyle Bartley and Preston striker Jamie Proctor, while Villarreal’s Jonathan de Guzman and Itay Shechter from Kaiserslautern have been brought in on loan deals.