CELTIC will have to stump up £2m if they want to secure the services of Irish striker Anthony Stokes, according to his manager at Hibernian, John Hughes, as the chances of Robbie Keane returning to Parkhead get slimmer by the day.
With Keane likely to be sold by Tottenham Hotspur by next Tuesday's transfer deadline - to make way for the £12.5m capture of Brazilian ace Luis Fabiano from Sevilla - Celtic made their interest in Stokes known on Thursday and made an initial offer of £1m for the striker.
Bhoys boss Neil Lennon had harboured hopes of securing another loan deal for Keane, but revealed the Dubliner is reluctant to make another loan switch to Parkhead. Keane will prefer to stay in the English Premier League, with Chris Hughton's Newcastle heading what looks like a very small queue.
While Lennon hasn't totally given up on signing Keane, he hasn't been given much encouragement from the Spurs striker.
"He hasn't offered any sort of signs that he'd like to come back but he is always welcome here. We will just keep working away at things until the transfer window shuts," said Lennon.
West Brom paid Celtic £2.2m for misfit Marco Fortune yesterday with Hibs looking for a similar sized fee for last season's top scorer Stokes.
"Everybody's talking like it's a done deal and he's away but that's miles from the truth, absolutely miles from the truth," Hughes claimed.
"For him, I don't know what he thinks, it might be a bit flattering. But for me it's a little bit disturbing, because I'm trying to build something at this club. I spoke to him on Friday morning and the two of us didn't know anything about it. All we know is the interest is definitely there, it's not a case of speculation.
"It doesn't surprise me when you've got a young kid like that scoring 23 goals and what he's done and the talent he's got. He's certainly a talented footballer. He's still got a long way to go and he'll only get better when he gets older."
Celtic had hoped to have Stokes signed in time to play against Motherwell tomorrow but will have to wait to get their man.
The Celtic boss said: "Stokes is an option. He's a player I like. He's got a good goalscoring record in Scotland. When I've seen Stokes, he has looked a menace in front of goal.
"He scored 20-odd goals last season for Hibs, and in his previous spell at Falkirk he scored quite a few as well."
Honduran left-back Emilio Izaguirre completed his move to Celtic yesterday and is likely to be given his debut in tomorrow's noon clash with Motherwell (live on ESPN).