Wednesday 21 February 2018

Lennon fears Samaras and Ledley ready to leave Celtic

Celtic manager Neil Lennon
Celtic manager Neil Lennon

Jamie Holland

NEIL LENNON is bracing himself to lose his out-of-contract Celtic stars Joe Ledley and Georgios Samaras.

The Parkhead club have had no joy in persuading the duo to sign new deals, an issue which increases in importance each day the January transfer window looms closer.

Ahead of Celtic's Scottish Premiership clash with Hearts at Parkhead today, Lennon was asked if, given the hold-up, he felt he was more likely to lose the Wales midfielder and Greece forward than keep them.

The Northern Irishman, who revealed that defender Mikael Lustig faces four months on the sidelines after undergoing a double hip operation, replied: "The honest answer would be, realistically, yes. The contracts are up in the summer.

"We are getting to the point where there will be a lot of speculation about both players, but we have made it clear that we are willing to speak to them. We have spoken to Joe already but we have had nothing back.

"(They are ) two players that we don't want to go but we can't force them to stay. We have had no indication of what the players want to do. The ball is very much in their court at the minute.

DIFFICULT

"We are planning for next season anyway but we would like some indication of what they are going to do. I have no idea if there are any offers for them, any interest in them. We have had no phone calls for them."

Lennon knows for certain that he will have to do without one of his best performers this season in Lustig -- the manager revealed that the Sweden right-back had been playing through the pain barrier for several months.

With his country failing to reach the World Cup finals and Celtic out of the Champions League, the decision was taken to undergo surgery.

Lennon said: "Lustig had surgery. He had both hips done, so the procedure was a bit more in-depth than first thought.

"We are hoping he will be back March/April time but he had a lot of work done, which makes his recent performances even more remarkable.

"His movement was restricted and he was in a lot of pain after games so it needed doing."

One player who could bolster Lennon's squad is Japan midfielder Hiroki Yamada, who has been on trial this week. The manager says it is possible that the player, who plays in the J-League with Jubilo Iwata, could be offered a deal.

Celtic beat Hearts 7-0 when they met in the Scottish Cup at Tynecastle at the start of the month but Lennon accepts that it will be difficult for his players to reach the Utopian standards he believes they attained in Gorgie that day.

CELTIC V HEARTS,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 2, 12.15

Irish Independent

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