IT is highly unlikely there will be an emotional return to Celtic for former fans’ favourite Filip Benkovic.

The 24-year-old Croatian centre-back, who was a massive hit at Parkhead in his 20 appearances during his season-long loan spell from Leicester City in 2018/19, is up for grabs after being released by Brendan Rodgers with 18 months still to run on his deal.

It was mutually agreed to scrap his contract and the elegant back-four operator is now on the look-out for a new club.

Benkovic has rarely figured for the Kings Power outfit since his £13million arrival from Dinamo Zagreb in August 2018, just before his quickfire switch to Celtic, ironically organised by Rodgers who selected him only twice for the Midlands outfit with his last appearance coming in a 2-0 defeat of Wigan in the FA Cup in January 2020.

HAMPDEN HERO…Filip Benkovic in control during the 1-0 League Cup Final victory over Aberdeen.

As well as his treble-winning spell in Glasgow, the defender had temporary transfers at Bristol City, Belgian club OH Leuven and Cardiff City.

Remarkably, he has featured in first-team action only 11 times across the past three seasons as his career has stalled since leaving Parkhead to return to his parent club.

The last time he figured in a City first-team squad was in November. Asked about Benkovic last week, Rodgers told Leicestershire Live the player had been unavailable for personal reasons.

Announcing the player’s departure, a statement read: “The Club would like to place on record its thanks to Filip for his professionalism and dedication during his time in Leicester – an experience we hope he can build on in during his future career.

“He begins the next chapter with the very best wishes of everyone at Leicester City.”

FULL PELT…Filip Benkovic in training at Leicester City earlier this season.

There has been the anticipated speculation about the possibility of a move back to Parkhead, but Ange Postecoglou appears to be looking at other areas to restrengthen his squad in this transfer window.

He spent £4.2million to bring in Carl Starfelt from Russian giants Ruben Kazan in July and is hoping to convert Cameron Carter-Vickers’ loan switch from Spurs into a permanent deal.

Plus he is hoping to bring back Christopher Jullien early in the second part of the campaign following the Frenchman’s enforced year-long absence after knee surgery.

Postecoglou also batted away any suggestions of Scotland Under-21 international skipper and stopper Stephen Welsh joining Udinese in a ludicrous £1.5million exit.

Ironically, Benkovic has been linked with the Serie A outfit and reports in Italy claim he is poised for a medical with Luca Gotti’s side.

The powerhouse defender, who has been capped once for Croatia in a 2-1 friendly loss against Tunisia in 2019, is hoping to get his career back on track as swiftly as possible.

The Celtic fans will undoubtedly wish Benkovic the very best for the future and say thanks for the memories.


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