NEIL Lennon has resigned himself to the departure of Greek forward Georgios Samaras as he prepares to overhaul his first-team squad this summer.
The Celtic manager has revealed he hopes to strengthen in “four or five” positions ahead of the Champions League qualifying campaign, which will commence on 15 or 16 July.
Greek international Samaras is out of contract at the end of the season and negotiations over a new deal have reached a standstill, prompting Lennon to accept the 29-year-old is one of those he will be replacing when the transfer window opens.
Lennon said: “I have to plan for being without Georgios. You never know but, as we stand, it is looking less likely he will be here after the summer.
“It’s certainly looking that way. There has been no more communication between the club and his representatives at the minute. He is still with the same agent he had from the start of the season but there have been no more talks since the January window. I will need to speak to him to see where I am and that will be a priority in the next week or two.
“Georgios is not out of the team at the moment because of that – I wouldn’t cut off my nose to spite my face. I have too much respect for Georgios and he will play games between now and the end of the season but it’s looking less and less likely that he will be here after that.
“We are working on strengthening the squad going into next season. Last summer, there was a lot of upheaval when he lost three players [Gary Hooper, Victor Wanyama and Kelvin Wilson] in the space of around ten days. That was a difficult period because we were in the middle of the Champions League qualifiers.
“It may be a little bit less fraught this time and we’ll try to do our business as quickly as possible. We want to strengthen at least four positions because I don’t want people assuming they are going to play every week. It would be ideal to be adding players from a position of strength but there are no guarantees we’ll have the same core of players. There may be suitors for the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Fraser Forster, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
“Certainly, if we don’t make the group stage of the Champions League, losing players to balance the books could be a realistic scenario. If we get there, then we might not have to sell.”
Lennon also played down claims from Federico Macheda’s agent that Celtic are keen on a summer move for the Italian under-21 international striker who will be out of contract at Manchester United.
“It’s wild speculation,” said Lennon. “A striker is always a priority position but, at the moment, we are well stocked in that department.”
Meanwhile, Lennon admits he is concerned by the fitness issues which continue to surround Dutch wide-man Derk Boerrigter, who will miss the visit of St Mirren today with an abdominal problem. The 27-year-old, who signed from Ajax last summer, has not had a run of games this season after being taken off injured in his debut against Ross County at Parkhead in August. His frustrations appeared to boil over in a recent interview when he was quoted as saying: “It is my intention to get into the starting line-up in the foreseeable future.
“If that doesn’t happen I will have to go and knock on the manager’s door and we will need to talk. I have not come over here to sit on the bench.”
However, Lennon said: “I saw the interview and I am quite comfortable with everything he said. It wasn’t a pop at me at all. He has found it frustrating because of injuries but we have played him in some big games this season.
“He is pretty happy here, he is just frustrated that the injuries have taken its toll on his flow of games.”