GEORGIOS Samaras struck a
discordant note on a day of
celebration for Celtic when he claimed he has been forced out of the club.
The Greek international was in tears on the Celtic Park pitch yesterday after scoring the second goal in a 3-1 win for the champions against Dundee United before they received the Premiership trophy.
It was widely anticipated beforehand that it would be Samaras’ last appearance for Celtic following months of speculation over whether he would sign a new contract when his existing deal expires next month. But, in a startling interview during the post-match celebrations, Samaras insisted he had wanted to stay at the club all along and was only departing because of Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell’s failure to offer him a new deal.
“I’m leaving, that’s for sure, but it was not my decision,” Samaras told BBC Scotland. “I never had an offer from the club. I never had an offer from Peter Lawwell. I’ve been seven years at the club and I’d have loved to stay. I had a chat with the manager. He would have loved me to stay and I was happy to stay, but me and the gaffer don’t make the decisions – there are people higher up. I’ve not spoken to any other club. I was waiting to the end to see if they offered me anything, but that is the end.
“We are the champions and that’s what counts in the end. I am very happy for my team-mates and the coaching staff and wish them all the best.”
The 29-year-old joined Celtic, initially on loan, from Manchester City in January 2008. He scored 74 goals in 252 appearances for the club, winning seven major honours. Although he often divided opinion among the Celtic support, he was highly valued by Celtic manager Neil Lennon and was often especially effective in the Champions League where he scored ten goals. Samaras appeared as a second-half substitute against United, receiving a warm ovation from the home fans. He scored his 11th goal of the season from the penalty spot after regular spot-kick taker Kris Commons handed him the ball.
Lennon, clearly unaware of Samaras’ comments when he conducted his own post-match media conference, indicated he felt the player was leaving through his own choosing. “I’d imagine his mind is made up,” he said. “I wouldn’t have thought there would be any negotiations. If there are any to be done, it would be between his advisor and Peter. He’s going to join up with the Greek World Cup squad pretty soon, so I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to see him or not. It was a nice touch from Kris to give Sami the opportunity to say goodbye properly. I don’t think it’s any big secret now that it doesn’t look like he is going to be here next season. So if he does go, he goes with the best wishes of the backroom team and the players.”