NEIL Lennon accused Victor Wanyama’s representatives of being “economical with the truth” in the impasse over his proposed £12.5 million move to Southampton but said he still expects the midfielder to leave Celtic before the start of the season.
• Celtic boss Neil Lennon admits that he is resigned to the prospect of Victor Wanyama leaving Parkhead
• Cardiff and Southampton are chasing £12 million-rated midfielder
Celtic responded angrily on Tuesday night to criticism from one of Wanyama’s agents, Ivan Modia, who claimed the 21-year-old Kenyan international had gone two years without a pay rise at the Scottish champions and that his client had been refused permission to join Queen’s Park Rangers last year.
Wanyama, who joined Celtic from Belgian side Germinal Beerschot for less than £1m two years ago, has one year left on his contract.
His agents have indicated that personal terms on offer from Southampton are unacceptable and are holding out for an alternative move to another English Premier League club.
But, although Cardiff City are also interested in Wanyama, they have not matched the size of the offer which Celtic accepted from Southampton.
Lennon believes Wanyama is blameless in what is becoming an acrimonious situation but insists Celtic will stick to their current position when dealing with his agents.
“There is a bit of mud-slinging going on which we feel is unnecessary,” said Lennon. “We have done nothing wrong apart from accept a bid from a club for a player we value very highly.
“Now it is not up to us regarding a player’s negotiations, personal terms or the agent’s personal terms. We have done nothing wrong. The club made that pretty clear and I would like to echo that.
“I spoke to Victor last week. He was due to speak to his agent regarding the offer on the table from Southampton. I’ve not ad a chance to speak to him since then., Everyone knows that we did offer him a contract extension and we did offer him a pay rise. But that was rejected. So I think they [his agents] have been pretty economical with the truth. We feel we have done our business in the proper manner. It’s a pity they have decided to come out and go public and have not really told the whole story.
“I don’t even know if QPR made a bid last season. If they did, then it was nowhere near the valuation we have of Victor, so it never materialised. We are well within our rights to do that. It’s not like we are stopping the player from progressing his career.
“He is our player. One, we don’t want him to go. Two, if he is going to go then the club has to match our valuation of the player. That’s what Southampton have done. They have handled things very professionally.
“I don’t get involved in any of the negotiations. I leave that to [chief executive] Peter Lawwell and to other people at other clubs. But I’m kept abreast of everything that is going on.
“It is a bit of a stand-off at the minute and you hope that can be resolved in the next week or so.
“Our relationship as a club with Victor is as good as ever. If the deal doesn’t go through, if it collapses or no other offers come in, we will welcome him back with open arms. There has not been one day when he has said he is unhappy here. He is actually very happy here. The policy over the last few years has been to bring younger players in, develop them and sell them on for decent money. We have done that with Victor and his representatives feel it is time for him to go.
“We have accepted an offer from Southampton which we feel is a very good offer. The rest is up to them now. I’m aware of interest from Cardiff as well but I don’t think a bid has come in yet. I hope it doesn’t drag on, but these things can be protracted. Maybe another club will come in and it might be an enticing offer for the player and his representatives. But the figure is there in black and white. I don’t think the club will be shifting too far from that. My own gut feeling is that a deal will get done somewhere along the line. But I’d like to emphasise that the relationship between me and the player has never changed. Neither has the relationship between the player and the club. It has been a bit petty and unnecessary in the last couple of days.”
Lennon reported no change in Gary Hooper’s position at Celtic. An offer from Hull City has been rejected for the striker, who is also entering the final year of his contract, but Lennon expects him to be with his squad for their pre-season tour to Germany next week.
French defender Steven Mouyokolo has returned to Celtic for a second trial period and the 26-year-old former Wolves player may play in a closed-door fixture this weekend as Lennon assesses him. But the Celtic manager insists there is “nothing” in reports linking Monaco striker Ibrahima Toure with a season-long loan move to Parkhead.
Celtic, meanwhile, have agreed to switch the order of their Champions League second qualifying-round tie against Cliftonville after the Belfast club requested to play the first leg in Northern Ireland on 16 or 17 July with the return in Glasgow the following week.
“We have said yes in principle,” said Lennon, “so we are just waiting to have it confirmed by Uefa. It will be the first time I have taken Celtic back home for a competitive game and it will create a lot of interest. It’s a favourable draw for both clubs but we won’t take it lightly. Our aim is to make the group stage again and we are pretty concentrated on these two games already.”
• Neil Lennon was speaking as he promoted a legends’ charity match at Celtic Park on 8 September to raise funds for former player Stiliyan Petrov’s leukaemia foundation.