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Lennon demands '£35m' to part with Hooper

CELTIC manager Neil Lennon insists it will take "proper money" to prise striker Gary Hooper or any other of his star players out of Parkhead.

Hooper (23) has been the subject of two rejected bids from Southampton recently.

He showed why against Dundee United on Saturday as his 16th goal of the season -- plus a header from midfielder Victor Wanyama -- took Celtic back two points clear of Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

John Rankin pulled a goal back for the visitors five minutes after the break, but Lennon's Bhoys did enough to leapfrog their Glasgow rivals, who had beaten St Johnstone 2-1 earlier in the day.

Lennon appeared to have Andy Carroll's fee in mind when he joked about his valuation of Hooper as "£35m". Hooper was in the Championship with Scunthorpe when Carroll was in the same division with Newcastle before moving to Celtic for around £2m in 2010.

Lennon was not for disparaging Carroll but he made it abundantly clear that he values his top players highly.

"I don't draw comparisons -- they are two totally different types of players," he said.

"I think Andy Carroll is a very good player. Whether people think the fee is justified (or not), it's not the player's fault.

"But we look at that and some of the other prices being bandied about, so players like Ki Sung-yueng, Beram Kayal, Emilio Izaguirre, Gary Hooper and James Forrest are not going to go cheap -- that's for sure.

"We are not a selling club but everyone has their price. I have spoken to Gary, I am keeping him up to date. He is very happy here."

Irish Independent