GEORGIOS SAMARAS will miss Celtic’s mid-season trip to Turkey as he ponders whether to sign a new contract with the Scottish champions.
The Greek international forward sat out Celtic’s 4-0 win against St Mirren in Paisley yesterday after suffering a hamstring strain in training. Samaras will not travel with Neil Lennon’s squad today as they head for a week’s warm-weather training in Antalya, where they will also compete in a four-team friendly tournament with Trabzonspor, Galatasaray and Ajax.
Celtic manager Lennon revealed that the club’s chief executive Peter Lawwell held fresh talks with Samaras on Saturday over a possible extension to his current deal, which runs out at the end of this season. The player is free to talk to other clubs this month, with Atletico Madrid and Hull City both having been credited with an interest in him.
“It was 50-50 whether we put Georgios into the team today,” said Lennon.
“He picked up a niggle and he won’t go to Turkey with us. He’ll stay back to get some treatment and it will give him a bit of time to think about his future.
“Hopefully, we’ll have an answer one way or the other on his future when we come back. He had a meeting with Peter on Saturday and you are never confident one way or the other. He has a lot to think about and it’s a big contract for him.
“Georgios is 29, so the next three or four years of his career are important. We would like him to be here, but it may not be the case.”
Lennon is also keen for midfielder Joe Ledley to make a decision on his future within the next week. The Welsh midfielder’s contract is also up for renewal this summer and Celtic would prefer to sell both him and Samaras this month, rather than let their deals run down if they do not agree extensions.
“Joe’s representatives are coming up on Tuesday and, hopefully, we’ll get something resolved one way or another,” added Lennon.
Celtic are now unbeaten in their first 20 matches of the Premiership campaign, with 17 wins and three draws so far. Yesterday saw them rack up a ninth consecutive league victory and also their seventh successive clean sheet in the competition.
Lennon remains cautious about the prospect of Celtic remaining undefeated for the full 38 games of the league campaign but admits it is a target which is sustaining the motivation levels of his players, who are already all but assured of a third consecutive championship triumph.
“To go unbeaten the rest of the season I think is almost impossible,” said Lennon. “But we are making inroads into that and all I want to do is stay unbeaten for as long as we can. That is a real carrot for the players.
“There is a long, long way to go. But to come here and play like we did today, having seen what St Mirren did to Dundee United just ten days ago, speaks volumes for the intensity and concentration the players showed.
“They had a real desire about them to go into the break unbeaten. There is a little bit of incentive there for them as well so they have taken that on. We got the goals and we got the clean sheet and we got the three points.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon, whose team remain uncomfortably close to the relegation play-off place, believes Celtic are capable of avoiding defeat for the rest of the season.
“When you look at the quality Celtic have, and I read that Neil is thinking about adding further to what he has, the gulf between them and the rest of Scottish clubs is absolutely enormous,” he said.
“I don’t think it is beyond them to go through the rest of the season unbeaten. A team like Celtic needs an extra incentive to keep them playing at that intensity every week. In the second half today, Neil got that from his players.
“I thought we were more than a match for a quality side like Celtic in the first half.
“You need a bit of luck when you play teams like Celtic and we got that when they hit the woodwork twice in the first half.
“I felt we were growing in confidence as the game went on but Celtic certainly turned it up a couple of notches in the second half and we were severely punished in the end.”