Remi Garde confirms Celtic-linked Libor Kozak is free to leave Aston Villa

Rémi Garde

The Villa boss has acknowledged the Scottish champions' interest in his out-of-favour striker.

Libor Kozak’s injury-hit spell at Aston Villa looks likely to come to a disappointing end in January.

The 26-year-old striker has not made the matchday squad in any of manager Remi Garde’s first eight games in charge and has now been told that he can leave the club next month.

Celtic boss Ronny Deila recently watched the Czech score twice for Villa’s Under-21s in a 2-1 win over Derby County, and despite seeing him reject a move to Parkhead in the summer, is expected to make another bid for his signature once the winter transfer window opens [h/t Daily Record].

Speaking to the Birmingham Mail, Garde confirmed Celtic’s interest in the out-of-favour forward and added that he would be free to leave on either a permanent or loan basis should an offer come in.

"Libor has been asked about at least once for a club wanting him on loan since I came," Garde told the newspaper. "Libor has the possibility to leave if he wants. It could be a permanent move.

“I have heard about this information and the link between Celtic and Libor, but then it's more down to him."

Premier League SeasonGoalsGoals MINSTotal Shots MINSShooting AccuracyScoring V Shooting AccuracyAssistsKey PassesPassing AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Jordan Ayew 2015-2016 5 225.6 41.78 48% 19% 0 7 80% 15 1,128
Libor Kozák 2013-2014 4 195.25 71 64% 36% 0 8 55% 14 781
Rudy Gestede 2015-2016 3 342.33 27.03 32% 8% 0 5 57% 19 1,027
Gabriel Agbonlahor 2015-2016 0 0 94.33 67% 0% 2 10 78% 8 566

Kozak first joined Villa from Serie A side Lazio in September 2013 for €6.5 million [£4.7 million] and made a solid start to life in England, scoring four goals in his first 14 Premier League appearances for the club.

However, he subsequently suffered a horrific leg break in training in January 2014 and spent the next 19 months out of first-team action after undergoing two separate operations.

His return to the senior setup in preseason saw him bag three goals in five friendlies, suggesting that he could be set to fill a crucial role in the since-departed Tim Sherwood’s side, but the fit-again front man has since made just one 48-minute substitute appearances in the Capital One Cup.

The arrival of Garde at the start of November offered some hope that he might be handed a second chance to revive his Villa career, but despite impressing for the Under-21s of late, the former Czech Republic international has failed to break into his new manager’s plans.

Fans have been crying out for him to be handed more playing time with the team sitting 11 points from safety at the foot of the Premier League, having netted a division-low 15 goals in 19 games, but Garde has continued to stress that he believes the 6ft 3in hitman is no better than his other forward options.

“I can’t tell you details but he needs to be better,” Garde told the Birmingham Mail last month when asked about Kozak’s continued absence. “I have the feeling for many reasons that he could not do better than we are doing at the moment. This is my feeling.

“I am not saying anything bad about Libor. He’s not the only one not to be included in the squad. I saw him playing with the reserves and then I decided.”

Garde reportedly rejected a loan bid for Kozak from Midlands rivals Birmingham City in November due to concerns over his squad’s depth [h/t Mirror], but all the signs now points towards an imminent departure.

Celtic remains his likeliest destination given their long-running interest in his services, but a recent report from Interia in Poland suggests that Ekstraklasa leaders Piast Gliwice are also in the discussion.

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