Keeping team together is big challenge: Lennon

Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes the biggest challenge he faces in the coming months are “wolves at the door” for his improving young players.

The likes of 21-year-old Kenya midfielder Victor Wanyama and 24-year-old striker Gary Hooper, both of whom are in negotiations over new contracts, have attracted interest with their Champions League displays while goalkeeper Fraser Forster has won England recognition.

But Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has insisted the club are under no pressure to sell players in January after their European exploits offset the financial impact of the loss of Rangers to the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

Lennon said: “Keeping the team together is a huge challenge – there is no doubt there will be wolves coming to the door in January and summer because we have some fantastic young players who would grace any team in Britain.

“The progress they are making and the way they are playing, they will be attractive assets for any club.

“There are four or five, maybe even six of them, who could certainly play in all walks of leagues in Europe.

“Thankfully they are here, really enjoying their football and loving the club. Obviously the experience they got from Wednesday night, they know they probably won’t get anywhere else.

“For the time being they are all in good places but it might be difficult to keep prospective buyers away.

“We don’t have to sell, which is the beautiful thing about the current situation at the club. If we do get offers, we will take it on its merits and talk about it and decide what is best for the club.”

The Celtic board told shareholders yesterday that the club made a conscious effort in January to keep the team together, although the squad was trimmed in the summer and Ki Sung-yueng was sold to Swansea in August for £6m.

And any bid that comes in next year will be assessed on its own merits.

Lawwell said: “If Cristiano Ronaldo can be sold, every club has got to look at the value of any offer made for its players.

“What we can say is that anything that does come in would be invested back into the team. That’s part of the model.

“Any Scottish club developing young talent, putting them in the first team and getting success, they want to hang on to them as long as possible.

“But inevitably if they are good enough they get interest. If that interest manifests in an offer then we consider it.”

Lawwell revealed the club were keen to keep Lennon for the long term with the manager believed to be on a one-year rolling contract.

“In terms of the contract we have with Neil and any of our employees, we keep it confidential,” he said.

“What we can say, in terms of the progress Neil has made and the team has made, then we would really like to see Neil being here for a long period of time. And hopefully we can satisfy his career ambitions over a long time.”

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