Celtic boss Neil Lennon tells Olivier Ntcham to‘knuckle down’

Celtic manager Neil Lennon says he has “wiped the slate clean” with Olivier Ntcham after confronting the French midfielder over claims he is keen to leave the Scottish champions this summer.

Olivier Ntcham trains under the watchful eye of manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Olivier Ntcham trains under the watchful eye of manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

In an interview with French media while he represented his country in the European under-21 Championship Finals, Ntcham expressed disappointment that a possible move to Porto fell through last year and suggested it would be better for his development if he left Celtic during the current transfer window.

Lennon was irked by the tone of the comments but, after meeting Ntcham on the player’s return to training with Celtic on Monday, he has accepted assurances from the 23-year-old that his sentiments were misinterpreted.

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“Whether you want to call it clear the air talks, I spoke to Olivier so that’s all resolved,” said Lennon. “He was disappointed with the way his comments came across in the French media and said the journalist phoned him to apologise.

“He gave me his side of it and we gave him our side of it and the slate is wiped clean. I don’t want to go into detail but I made my feelings pretty clear when I responded to it last week.

“I don’t like that sort of mindset towards the club. We’re not a stepping stone for anyone, we’re here to win things and be successful and progress players if that’s what they want – or keep good players for as long as possible.

“We’re a big club and you’ve seen over the years top quality players have progressed here in the Scottish environment and Olivier has looked at that and he will look to start getting better again.”

Ntcham joined Celtic from Manchester City for £4.5 million two years ago and is under contract until the summer of 2022. Despite being linked with Marseille recently, Lennon says Celtic have received no notification of any interest in Ntcham.

“There has been nothing so far,” he added. “It’s a question of Olivier knuckling down now, being a Celtic player and doing what he is good at. That’s what we want from him.

“He is back in with the squad and the players so it is not an issue now. He was out training on Tuesday and he isn’t one who is short of fitness as he had the Euro Under-21s so he’s only had a two-and-a-half, three week break. It’s a big year for him as he missed out on a bit of football in the second half of last season so it’s important he comes back to the fold and shows the talent he really is. He’s a very talented player but he needs to be more consistent with it.”

Lennon, meanwhile, says he may have a decision to make over his first choice goalkeeper this season with Craig Gordon fully fit again to challenge Scott Bain.

“Scott is in pole position but I liked what I saw from Craig at the weekend,” said Lennon.