Neil Lennon doesn’t want Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic to leave the club this summer despite interest from elsewhere, The Telegraph report.
The Croatian centre-back was reported to have attracted interest from French side Lille. The Daily Record believed that the Hoops knocked back an opening bid of £4m. It was said that the Ligue 1 side would return with a higher offer.
Lennon has confirmed the defender was a wanted man but has now revealed the interest has dried up. He wants the 25-year-old to remain a Celt.
The Hoops boss has also been left surprised by the qualities Simunovic has.
As quoted by The Telegraph, Lennon said: “There was interest but it dissipated and I don’t want him to go. He is really good player.
“With the competition he had here from Dedryck Boyata and Felip Benkovic, he didn’t play a lot but when I came in, I thought, ‘He looks a really good defender’ – comfortable, takes the ball out, scores really important goals as well and is a threat in the opposition box.
“I didn’t realise how good Jozo was until I saw him playing.”
Can Simunovic remain as a prime defensive pick?
The arrival of Christopher Jullien has given Lennon a positive selection headache in central defence. With Kristoffer Ajer also competing, the Hoops have three quality players for the two positions. Even midfielder Nir Bitton has started the season well at the back.
Simunovic has missed the first two games of the league season because of suspension. However, he’s been Lennon’s go-to pick in Europe, starting all five qualifiers so far.
One issue though is that the 25-year-old has historical knee problems. Lennon has highlighted that as a factor when it comes to selection (The Telegraph).
It could give Jullien and Ajer the chance to build a partnership and ultimately secure their place as the defence’s main pairing.
Despite that he remains one of the most improved players at the club since Lennon arrived. It is likely he will play dozens of games this term.
Keeping him is crucial, especially without replacement, and the club must look to rebuff any interest from foreign sides before the end of the transfer window.