NEIL Lennon has played down speculation linking Celtic with a move for Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher.
Hull City are also reported to be interested in acquiring the 26-year-old Scotland striker during the January transfer window amid suggestions relegation-threatened Sunderland would be willing to sell him for around half the £12 million fee they paid Wolves for his signature 18 months ago.
Lennon’s top priority this month is to recruit a proven goalscorer but, while he admits his admiration for Fletcher, the Celtic manager expressed surprise at talk of a possible bid.
“I don’t know where the story has come from,” said Lennon. “I can’t talk about players who are under contract at other clubs and I’m not going to talk publicly about players at other clubs.
“He is obviously a fine player but he cost Sunderland £12 million and I don’t have that type of money, believe me. It’s just speculation and I can’t say any more than that. He is a player that I think most teams in Britain would like but affordability may be a problem for us.”
Celtic have operated under firmly established guidelines regarding transfer fees and player salaries in recent years. They missed out on Fletcher back in 2009 when he first moved south to Burnley from Hibs for £3 million.
Lennon says the Scottish champions, bolstered by two successive qualifications for the Champions League group stage, do have the means to extend themselves further in the transfer market if appropriate targets become available. “Look, we have resources now,” added Lennon. “We are probably in as strong a position as we’ve been in a long, long time.
“So it’s important that we spend the money that’s available and get the right quality in. We are no different from any other club. I had a meeting this morning with [chief executive] Peter Lawwell and we worked away at the business we want to do, as best we can.
“People might laugh at this, but I think our squad is thin and I want to add to it in certain areas. There is no question that there will be players leaving and there will be players coming in. We are trading as well. I don’t need to sell to do that but ideally you don’t want to clog it up either. The market is difficult but I would say that we’ve got two thirds of it right. We sold a lot of players in the summer and we will sell again eventually. We have huge assets in the team – again we haven’t had that for quite a while – but, at the same time, we still want to add to that and what I want is real, genuine quality. And if we have to spend a bit of money, which I think we have got, then we’ll spend it if we can get the right player in.”
Lennon added: “You have to have a list of targets, because eventually you will come to a point when if your first choice isn’t coming, then you look at the next one. You have to have three or four targets for the majority of positions.
“I would say we are looking at three positions to add to. It’s about longer-term planning. There is no point bringing loan signings in now, unless it is a loan with a view to buying the player at the end of it.
“The policy is the same but we may have to break the wage structure eventually. I don’t know if we will in this window or not. I don’t want a huge wage differential with any player coming in. If we have to break the wage structure, it won’t be by much.”