Neil Lennon is ready to break the bank to land Celtic a new star striker – even if he might not reap the benefit himself.
The Irishman is currently the Hoops caretaker boss, with performances between now and the end of the season likely to determine whether he gets to continue on a permanent basis.
Yet as Lennon explained, the demands of the modern game are such that much of his time is being spent thinking about how best to improve the team in time for next season’s Champions League qualifiers.
The need to recruit another top-quality centre-forward to support the club’s £9-million Frenchman Odsonne Edouard has been identified as top priority, with Lennon very much hands-on in terms of the hunt.
“We’ve been talking about names and looking at targets over the last few weeks,” he revealed.
“John Kennedy’s been away, I’ve been away.
“In fact, when we got the news on Billy McNeill, I was in Paris because I had been at a game the night before.
“So the work is very much ongoing anyway, regardless of our situation.
“We are having recruitment meetings, and it is fair to say in the conversations we have had, much of the focus has been on the need to get in another striker.
“At the moment, there is only really Odsonne and Leigh Griffiths, and he is just coming back to us after five months out.
“People will say: ‘What about Ollie Burke and Timothy Weah?’. But for me they are wingers.
“So centre-forward would be the position I would look at for next season if I was the manager, and is the position I am looking at now for whoever.”
Edouard cost Celtic a club record fee to bring in from Paris Saint-Germain last summer, and Lennon insists he has no qualms about pushing for a similar investment again this time if that is what it takes to land the player he wants.
“It is not easy to get these guys. They cost money,” he said. “That was the case with Odsonne. But in this day and age, it was decent business for the club, when you think about it.
“He’s paid back a huge chunk of his transfer fee with really important goals this season.
“Sometimes I would have liked to give him some help by playing with two strikers, but I’ve not had that luxury.
“Playing up there on your own – when you’ve got two big bears wanting to stop you – isn’t easy.
“But he does it very, very well and I think he’s a better player than what I first envisaged him to be.
“I’ve been delighted with his contribution up till now. In the past couple of months, he’s been outstanding.
“Listen, centre-forward is the hardest position to play; scoring goals is the hardest thing to do.”
Meanwhile, Lennon is looking to thin down the numbers. “This squad does need trimming, there’s no question about that,” he said.
“I understand with the amount of games and competitions we’re in, we maybe need a bigger squad than other clubs.
“At times, the group I had at Hibs was too small for my liking.
“Ideally, though, you are looking numbers in the mid-20s to keeping it more intimate and compact.”
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