Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, yesterday admitted the likelihood that Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley would be leaving in January is increasing in the continued absence of communication from either them or their agents to suggest they wish to prolong their stay.
Both players’ contracts expire at the end of this season and while both have been offered new extended deals, neither player has told Lennon that their intention is to re-sign. Now Celtic are in the position of having to look to move them on in January or risk losing the players for nothing in the summer.
Samaras, who joined the club from Manchester City in 2008, is reported to be a target for Toronto FC while Ledley is routinely linked with a return to Cardiff City, the club he left Celtic for in 2010. At age 28 and 26 respectively, both will recognise that the next contract they sign could stand as the most significant one of their careers. While cautioning against prematurely “writing their epitaths” at Celtic, Lennon conceded that it is becoming
increasingly likely they will leave the Scottish champions.
“You never say never,” he said, with reference to the prospect of retaining both players or
either one or the other. I’ve not yet had any indication from
either of them about what they want to do. And certainly there’s also been no indication from their representatives. The longer it goes the more likely it is they’ll be leaving.
“I thought after last season both of them would’ve wanted to stay. They seem quite happy here. But they might have other issues to attend to behind the scenes that we don’t know about. It’s just part of the game. But we need to know one way or the other pretty soon because we’ll have to look for replacements if that is the case that they are going. Ideally, we’d do that in January. If they were thinking running their contracts down then we’d look to move them on in January to avoid that. They’ve been excellent players for
Celtic. But we’re writing their epitaths here and it’s a little bit premature.”
Lennon is preparing to begin another rebuilding task at Celtic after the side’s deficiencies on the European stage were laid bare when finishing bottom of their Champions League group. The Celtic manager travelled to the Netherlands in midweek on a scouting trip and has been linked with moves for AZ Alkmaar’s Aron Johannsson and Heerenveen’s Iceland striker, Alfred Finnbogason. Lennon watched the two sides meet on Wednesday night in the Dutch Cup, with Johannsson impressing with two goals in his side’s win on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
“We were over looking at a couple of players and anything else that caught our eye,” he said. “It was just an opportunity to get out and watch players. It was okay. I’m not saying I’m going to bring either of those two in but we are looking to bring players in in January for the long term.”
Japan midfielder Hiroki Yamada has been training with the club this week and Lennon will continue to assess him over the next few days. “He has adapted well,” he said.
Celtic host Hearts at Parkhead this afternoon and are bidding to extend their unbeaten run in the league to 16 games against opponents they defeated 7-0 at Tynecastle in the Scottish Cup three weeks ago. Asked about the prospect of going an entire league campaign without defeat, something defender Virgil van Dijk challenged his teammates to do after last Saturday’s 1-0 won over Hibernian, Lennon said: “It’s a very difficult thing to do. There are so many circumstances and quirks that can get in the way of that. We want to get to 20, if we can, then take it from there.”