LIVERPOOL exploited a Celtic contract clanger to steal Ben Davies just before the transfer deadline.

The Preston central defender was poised to a move to Parkhead on July 1 after agreeing personal terms on a pre-contract with the 25-year-old due to leave Deepdale at the end of the season.

It looked just a matter of time before Davies kicked off his Hoops career in the new campaign – until the Anfield side made an eleventh-hour swoop for the highly-rated left-sided Championship back-four operator.

Celtic inserted a clause requiring the player to be injury-free and fit to play when reporting for duty, according to a report in the Sunday People.

While Davies wavered, Jurgen Klopp, desperate for defensive reinforcements, moved swiftly to agree a deal worth up to £1.6million with the Merseyside outfit’s Holland Under-19s defender Sepp van den Berg going to North End on a six-month loan.

Neil Lennon was left frustrated after being under the impression he had landed Davies for free.

Asked about missing out on the player so close to a deal being rubber-stamped, the Hoops boss, as CQN reported, admitted: “It’s a blow because we were very close to doing that and obviously we got gazumped at the last minute by Liverpool. Disappointed, but we move on.”

Preston gaffer Alex Neil, the former Hamilton Accies chief, added: “The Liverpool move came out of the blue. I think he was shocked. I just said: ‘Listen you’ve just got to make sure you get this across the line’.

“He’s earned his move and when he gets his opportunity he has to show everybody what he’s about.”

Davies, who was on the substitutes’ bench for Klopp’s side’s shock loss to Brighton in midweek, is standing by to make his debut against Manchester City at Anfield today which has a 4.30pm kick-off.

Lennon paired Stephen Welsh with Kriistoffer Ajer in central defence in the 2-1 victory over Motherwell at Parkhead yesterday where the youngster claimed his first goal for the club with a thunderous header for the opener.


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