OLIVIER Kapo says placing professional ambition ahead of financial gain was his biggest motivation in holding out for the move to Celtic that he completed yesterday.
• Olivier Kapo will wear No 77 for Celtic but says he did not indulge in any number crunching before deciding to move to Scotland. Picture: SNS
The 30-year-old French midfielder, who was a free agent following his release by Wigan Athletic, has signed an 18-month contract at Celtic, where he becomes Neil Lennon's 12th signing since taking charge of the club on a permanent basis in the summer.
Kapo's agreement, which is subject to international clearance following a spell back in his homeland on loan at Boulogne, has a termination option in January if he fails to meet Celtic's expectations of him.
But the former Auxerre and Juventus player has no doubts he can revive his top-flight career in Scotland, revealing he rejected far more lucrative offers to play in the Arab Gulf States in order to sign for Lennon.
"I made a football decision, not a decision for financial reasons," said Kapo. "I have played at the top before and I want to do so again. There was talk of me coming to Celtic earlier this year, but it didn't work out for reasons I'm not really sure about.
"I then had a few opportunities to go to the Gulf, where I could certainly have made more money, but I wasn't really interested. I was waiting on an opportunity to relaunch my career and this is it. I'm 30 now, I am conscious of my age, and I see this as my chance to play at the highest level again."
Kapo includes an international recall among the aims he has brought with him to Celtic. He won the most recent of his nine caps for France in a friendly against Brazil six years ago but believes the upheaval surrounding the squad since their disastrous World Cup finals campaign in South Africa may open the door for him to earn a return. "Once you have tasted playing at international level with the French team, you always want to do so again," he added. "If I play for Celtic and I play well, then hopefully I can get back into the French team."
The immediate target for Kapo, however, is to prove his match fitness and command a regular place in the Celtic first team. The Ivory Coast-born player, who can operate as a winger or an attacking central midfielder, is confident his lack of action in recent times will not count against him.
He made just one substitute appearance for Wigan last season before his spell with Boulogne, where he scored two goals in 16 games but was unable to prevent them being relegated from Ligue 1.
"I have been doing a lot of work back home in Paris before coming here," he said. "I believe I am no more than two weeks away from being fully fit.It is not for me to decide when I play for the first team, of course, but the best way to get fitness is to play matches.
"I'm really happy to be here, I feel I will be working for an excellent coach and that I'm joining a big club. The club can review my contract in January to decide whether I am a good option or not but I believe I can do well here. I played for another big club before in Juventus and I think this is the same kind of environment to play in."
Kapo joined Juventus in 2004 but was unable to secure regular first-team football in Turin, being loaned out to Monaco and Spanish side Levante before he was sold to Birmingham City for 3million in 2007. Signed by Steve Bruce, he followed him to Wigan the following year in a 2.5million move before his time at the Lancashire club turned sour under Bruce's successor, Roberto Martinez.
"There are highs and lows in every player's career," said Kapo. "I count myself fortunate to have played alongside some brilliant players in my career, like Zinedine Zidane, Pavel Nedved and Alessandro del Piero. When I went to Birmingham, it went really well for me and I was really happy there. It didn't work out for me at Wigan but that happens. I am happy to be out of Wigan and to be here in Scotland."
Kapo received recommendations of his new place of work from two friends and former Celtic players, full-back Jean-Joel Perrier-Doumbe and striker Henri Camara.
"All the feedback was very positive," he added. "Jean-Joel is like a brother to me. We played together for many years at Auxerre, while I was at Wigan with Henri for a while. They both said Celtic is a great club with great facilities and supporters, a fantastic stadium and good people who look after you."