DESPITE the usual scare mongering this morning regarding Neil Lennon’s early summer signing targets, the mood behind the scenes at Celtic is one of confidence concerning two of the new manager’s targets – West Brom’s Rekeem Harper and Motherwell’s David Turnbull.
It should be noted that Harper, who was definitely at Celtic Park on Trophy Day – I saw him going out of the club’s car-park with his agent – cannot sign until his contract at West Brom at the end of the month and also that Turnbull can’t complete a move away from Motherwell to Celtic until the summer window opens this Tuesday – so not long to wait.
The papers this morning are full of stories about the clubs who have contacted the Fir Park side to note their interest in Turnbull. The Sunday Mail are throwing Bournemouth – noting their deep Premier League pockets – into the mix today, adding that Derby County, Wigan and Bristol City are also among the list of clubs that have contacted Motherwell.
Celtic, quite understandably, were less than impressed that their early interest was immediately splashed over the media by the selling club and Peter Lawwell will be well aware of the need to avoid another frustrating summer, so there will be no repeat of the John McGinn saga.
That saga, which ultimately ended in frustration and failure, was personally damaging to the reputation of the CEO among pretty much the entire Celtic support. The handful who argued on behalf of Lawwell must have blushed as the former Hibs midfielder went on to win the Aston Villa Player of the Year awards (voted by players and supporters), scored a wonder goal then a less spectacular one, but infinitely more significant in the 2-1 win over Derby County in the Championship Play-off final at Wembley to win Villa a place back in the big money Premier League.
If for instance Leicester City boss Rodgers decided to buy McGinn from Villa he might have to spend maybe £15-20million.
So there can be no repeat of this with Turnbull and Celtic plan to go back in with their improved bid this week. Yesterday we reflected on Motherwell overplaying their hand regarding Celtic’s interest in their keeper Carson, that only opened the door for Scott Bain to get his move to Celtic.
Incidentally what happened at Hampden last night re David Marshall being in goals and Bain on the bench? Noticed that Oli Burke grabbed a dramatic late winner for Steve Clarke – don’t rule out him for a return to Celtic if the price is right.
On Harper, Neil Lennon attended the Championship Play-off semi-final between Villa (ironically enough) and West Brom to scout the West Brom midfielder. He followed that up by inviting the player to Paradise on Trophy Day and hopefully he liked what he saw. Harper will be available to Celtic with a small cross development fee being due to West Brom, similar to the situation regarding Moussa Dembele’s move to Celtic from Fulham in June 2016.
Meanwhile Mikael Lustig, who played for Sweden on Friday evening in their 3-0 win, despite his legs having gone, will make his decision known this week whether he’ll remain at Celtic or decide to go back home to Sweden where both Malmo and AIK Stockholm are keen to sign him.
Lustig is likely to be used sparingly at Celtic as Neil Lennon looks to bring in a younger first pick right back. That won’t be Jerry Toljan who has gone back to Borussia Dortmund to discover that he’s surplus to requirements and it looks like Marco Rose, the former RB Salzburg manager who moved to Borussia Munchengladbach.
Dortmund signed Toljan from Hoffenheim for a fee of £6.2 million two years ago but has dropped out of favour. His loan spell at Celtic from end January until May wasn’t regarded as being successful and the player dropped out of the starting eleven shortly after Neil Lennon replaced Rodgers at the end of February.
He looked disinterested in his last few appearances from the bench, including the 45 minutes he played at Ibrox in the Dead Rubber Defeat, and did not impress our new manager.