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CELTIC TARGET IN DEMAND

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CELTIC target Mark McKenzie, the Philadelphia Union central defender, is on the wanted list of English and German top-flight clubs ahead of next month’s transfer window.

The Hoops were in discussions with the MLS outfit about the 21-year-old USA international in the summer before they switched their interest to Republic of Ireland stopper Shane Duffy.

The Brighton centre-back agreed a season-long loan deal, but has failed to settle in at the champions.

Neil Lennon may look again at McKenzie, but his club’s sporting director Ernst Tanner has warned they face stiff competition for their hottest property.

It’s clear the Parkhead manager needs to strengthen his rearguard which has leaked a landslide 28 goals in their past 12 games. He has been forced to play Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton at the heart of the defence in recent games.

Asked if there had been any further talks with the Glasgow club, Philadelphia chief Tanner, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “Not recently. Yeah, there were and they signed other players. It’s not necessarily going to be Celtic. There is a German league club and other European leagues going for that player. Some of the Premier League clubs are also observing him.

“We don’t have any sort of pressure on him and he also doesn’t need to force a transfer. He’s a good player and plays in a competitive league.

“There is nothing on the table for him, but I know there a lot of rumours out and we are certainly following that. There are some loose discussions at this moment, but nothing concrete.

“The situation in Europe is pretty difficult due to Covid. Mark has certainly really stepped up over the course of the season and he is ready to go. But he could also stay here for another year or half-year.”

Celtic’s summer recruitment has been questioned by former Hoops stars Chris Sutton and Kris Commons over the past week, as CQN have reported.

As well as Duffy, Greek goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas has been unconvincing after arriving on a £4.5million transfer from AEK Athens and Swiss stiker Albian Ajeti, a £5million buy from West Ham, has not scored since September.

Lennon acknowledges it is crucial he gets it right in next month’s transfer window if he is to revive his club’s ailing season.

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