Celtic boss Neil Lennon keen to keep hold of ‘top professional’ Craig Gordon
Manager still wants to extend Fraser Forster’s stay but also hopes to retain veteran goalkeeper
Neil Lennon insists he wants Craig Gordon to stay with Celtic and says negotiations on a new contract for the veteran goalkeeper are continuing.
Gordon, whose current deal expires this month, has rejected the terms of Celtic’s initial offer to him amid firm interest in his services from both St Mirren and former club Hearts.
The 37-year-old has kept 119 clean sheets in 242 appearances for Celtic since joining the Scottish champions in 2014.
But he played just six games last season as Fraser Forster, returning to the club on loan from Southampton, firmly established himself as Lennon’s first choice keeper.
The Celtic manager remains keen to extend Forster’s stay but also hopes he can retain Gordon’s services.
“There’s no movement with Craig yet but talks are ongoing,” said Lennon. “The door is always open. I’d like to keep him, he’s a top professional and he handled himself really well last season.
“Craig is absolute quality and we don’t know what will happen with Fraser as well. We’ll hopefully know more over the next few weeks.”
Lennon is hopeful agreement can be reached with Southampton for both Forster and his fellow loanee Mohamed Elyounoussi, the Norwegian international midfielder.
“We’d really like to have both of them back for next season,” added Lennon. “But it won’t be just down to us as they are not our players. You have the strange fragmented time with transfers, with the English Premier League not finishing until the end of July. We might have to be patient but talks are ongoing at the minute. They both made great contributions last year and they are top quality players. I was really impressed with Mo up until his season got curtailed by a foot injury.
“He’s come back to training looking strong and hungry. It’ll need to be thrashed out between both clubs but it’s been encouraging to hear what they have both been saying about the club.”
Lennon admits his recruitment plans are unclear as Celtic digest the financial consequences of the coronavirus pandemic but believes they may be able to confirm a new signing within the next seven days.
“Every club has been affected, all over the world,” he said. “We’ve not been able to sit down and work out the budget either. We’re not immune to the financial implications of all of this either. All clubs have taken a hit. I saw that Spurs have just taken out a huge loan and we all know the money going around in England. So it’s no surprise Scottish sides feel it as well, with all the uncertainty.
“I don’t think the markets will really open up until the English Premier League finishes and we’ll get some kind of benchmark in terms of transfer fees and wages.
“There are a lot of big deals to be done. It might just be a question of being patient and seeing what is available.
“You’d obviously like to do your business early but the window could be open until October. We can’t put a prediction of what will happen during these times.
“We’re hoping to have someone in place next week. We’ve identified three of four options but I can’t say anything yet.”
Lennon is also eager to hold onto two of Celtic’s biggest assets in Norwegian defender Kristoffer Ajer and French striker Odsonne Edouard, who have been strongly linked with AC Milan and Arsenal respectively. Both 22-year-olds are going into the final two years of their current contracts.
“Will there be bids for Odsonne? I don’t know,” said Lennon. “There’s been no bids for anyone at the minute, which is pleasing because I want to maintain the continuity.
“It’s the same with Kris Ajer. There’s been talk but nothing has come in. You want these guys to be part of something really special if we can achieve what we are setting out to do this season.
“There’s a real sense of excitement and you want the full package. You want your best players to be here and the fans to be eventually back in to see them go for it. We hope all things go smoothly on and off the pitch.
“I was absolutely delighted with Odsonne last season. He really kicked on with his all round game and his contribution in terms of goals.
“I was delighted for him on a personal level to win the Scottish Football Writers’ Player of the Year award.
“He was absolutely thrilled and it’s probably the accolade to win in the Scottish game. It was great to hear how he is tunnel visioned in terms of what he wants to achieve here next season. We’ll do all we can to keep him happy for as long as possible.”
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