'Couldn't get it done': Lennon admits Celtic were close to signing £6m man

Celtic Manager Neil Lennon

Scottish Premiership champions Celtic missed out as Christian Atsu decided to stay in the Premier League with Steve Bruce's Newcastle United instead.

Christian Atsu of Newcastle United (30) during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Watford FC at St. James Park on August 31, 2019 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has admitted to the Daily Record that he felt a January deal for Christian Atsu was ‘close’ – only for the winger to stay and fight for his place at Newcastle United instead.

With four months remaining in the 2019/20 campaign, it is shaping up to be another excellent season for the Glasgow giants. Celtic are now seven points clear of Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership table and face a very winnable Europa League round-of-32 clash against Copenhagen in February too.

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But Atsu, it seems, has opted to sit on the bench for a mid-table outfit rather than win trophies and play European football north of the border.

 

According to the Record, Celtic made a deadline-day bid to sign the £6 million Ghana international on loan, only for Atsu to turn down an opportunity in favour of staying on Tyneside.

“I thought we were close but we couldn’t get it done so that’s the end of it,” said Lennon, who was otherwise thrilled with the additions of Patryk Klimala and Ismaila Soro.

“I was at work, at the stadium (on deadline day). That’s always the case on the last day of the transfer window in case something comes up.

Mason Holgate of Everton battles for possession with Christian Atsu of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Everton FC at St. James Park on...

“I’m happy with the ins. We’ve streamlined a little bit as well, players who needed to get games.”

It remains to be seen whether Atsu, a former Chelsea and Porto flyer, ends up regretting his decision. He has started just six Premier League games all season and, with Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron finding form more consistently, it feels unlikely that he will be playing regularly in the months to come.

Then again, with Mikey Johnstone and Moi Elyounoussi both competing for Atsu’s favoured left-wing role, there’s no reason to suggest that he would have been a guaranteed starter at Celtic either.

Christian Atsu of Newcastle United (30) holds the ball during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Newcastle United at Goodison Park on January 21, 2020 in Liverpool, United...

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