Wednesday 17 July 2019

Neil Lennon to speak to Ntcham following transfer comments as Champions League clash looms

Olivier Ntcham scores from the penalty spot. Photo: Graham Stuart/PA Wire
Olivier Ntcham scores from the penalty spot. Photo: Graham Stuart/PA Wire

Ronnie Esplin

Celtic manager Neil Lennon will speak to Olivier Ntcham about his "mindset" when he returns to the Parkhead club.

The 23-year-old French midfielder was quoted as saying he was disappointed not to have moved to Porto last season while admitting speculation linking him with Marseilles was flattering.

Ntcham, who joined Celtic in 2017 from Manchester City and was part of the squad which won an historic domestic treble treble last season, also claimed Scottish football was not challenging enough, saying: "We can do as many matches as we want but, with all due respect for my opponents, if the level in front is not high, you do not progress."

Ntcham has been on international duty with France Under-21s at the European Championship but Lennon, preparing Celtic for the first leg of the Champions League first qualifier against Sarajevo at the Asim Ferhatovic Hase stadium on Tuesday night, said. "That will be addressed when Olivier comes back.

"I think it is fair to say that a lot of us, would it be management, players or people at the club were not satisfied with the comments.

"When I speak to Olivier it will be done privately but you can imagine, we find the comments untimely and not particularly accurate.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon is looking to guide his side back to the Champions League group stages (Jeff Holmes/PA)
Celtic manager Neil Lennon is looking to guide his side back to the Champions League group stages (Jeff Holmes/PA)

"He still has a future (at Celtic) he is under contract.

"But I will be speaking to him about his mindset and his attitude toward the club as well which, the way it came across, didn't look good."

Lennon revealed it was "as you were" with regards left-back Kieran Tierney who has been linked with Italian side Napoli with Arsenal having had a bid, reportedly of £15million, rejected.

The Scotland international is working his way back to fitness after a double-hernia operation in May.

"I have taken no notice of the headlines," said the Northern Irishman who revealed Jack Hendry and Marian Shved had picked up injuries which kept them in Glasgow.

"I am well aware of where we are in terms of the situation.

"I spoke to Kieran in Austria (training camp) and to be honest I haven't really seen much of him because he came back early for rehab, so has not been on the training ground as yet.

"It can be an unsettling period for any player and that is understandable but until a club comes up with any sort of realistic valuation of the player we don't have to do anything and we won't.

"It's as you were. Kieran is getting on with his rehabilitation and we are getting on with what we have to do here."

The last time Lennon took Celtic into the Champions League group stages was in his first spell as boss in 2013 and it took a stoppage goal from James Forrest against Shakhter Karagandy for a 3-0 win to overcome the 2-0 first leg defeat.

"I would love that," said the former Celtic captain.

"Qualifying for the Champions League is almost as good as winning a trophy, as far as I am concerned, for what it brings to the club.

"But we are a long way off from that. This is the first step, hopefully, to achieving that.

"We have a lot of hard work and we might need a little bit of luck along the way.

"It is a dangerous tie for Celtic. We will not take anything for granted. Sarajevo are the champions of their country and are to be respected."

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