NEIL LENNON admitted Celtic had been “gazumped” by Liverpool in their pursuit of Preston defender Ben Davies.
The Hoops were confident of landing the left-sided centre-back and reports were made from south of the border the 25-year-old had agreed a pre-contract with the Parkhead side.
However, they proved to be inaccurate and it emerged yesterday the Anfield side had moved in for Davies. Ironically, Jurgen Klopp is looking for defensive cover for ex-Celt Virgil van Dijk who is injured and could miss the remainder of the campaign.
The Kop boss refused to talk about the prospective swoop after his team’s 3-1 win over West Ham in London yesterday, but news emerged earlier today the player was heading to Merseyside for a medical.
Asked about the pre-contract situation, Lennon, speaking to the media, admitted: “It’s a blow because we were very close to doing that and obviously we got gazumped at the last minute by Liverpool.
“He lives in that area and I’m sure financially it would have been quite rewarding for him as well, so disappointed, but we move on.”
Preston advisor Peter Ridsdale revealed the the plan was for Davies to sign a pre-contract agreement with Celtic, but they have missed out with the Deepdale outfit more than satisfied to strike a cut-price deal – including a sell-on clause – with the English title-holders.
In addition, the Championship outfit will receive Holland Under-19 international defender Sepp van den Berg on loan until the end of the season.
Ridsdale, speaking to talkSPORT, said: “We were very happy with the deal, given that the alternative was that he was going to sign for Celtic for nothing,” said Ridsdale. “We do have an investment in his future because there is a sell-on clause, so we’re very happy with the deal we’ve done with Liverpool.
“We’ve done a deal to take on loan one of their young players. This came about in part because we were enquiring about their player, anyway, and once everything is tied up today, we hope to get a player back on loan for the balance of the season as part of the deal.”
Davies has agreed a move that will see his former club receive just £500,000 up front.
They could get add-ons totalling up to £1.1million during the course of the player’s time at Anfield and will also claim 20-per-cent of any profit the Reds make on selling him.
Lennon is still urgently looking for central defensive cover with Christopher Jullien likely to be out for the remainder of the term while Nir Bitton was injured and removed at the interval during the 2-1 loss to St Mirren at the weekend.