FORGOTTEN Celt Manny Perez is ready to challenge for a first-team spot at the champions – once he overcomes work permit red-tape regulations.

The American Under-20s international is focused on winning a place in Neil Lennon’s first-team squad and has his eyes on battling Jeremie Frimpong and Hatem Abd Elhamed for the right-back berth.

Highly-rated Perez penned a three-year deal at the Hoops just before Brendan Rodgers’ sudden exit to Leicester City.

The 21-year-old is eager to return to Parkhead after completing a loan stint at North Carolina FC in the USA’s second-tier and hopes the government issues that have prevented him playing in Scotland can be resolved very quickly.

Perez, speaking to the Scottish Sun, said: “If I could get there tomorrow, then I would get a flight. It would be a dream come true for me.

“I’m in love with Celtic. We have the best fans in the world. I have a Celtic TV account, so I’ve been keeping up with the games.

“If I can get my permit to go through, we can just move forward from there. My agent and I are trying to sort things out and have been in constant communication with the club.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to work it out soon.

“Our season here ended about a week ago, so we’re just trying to get myself over there.”

Perez came through the college ranks in The States and caught the attention of a Hoops scout during a training camp in Spain.

He explained: “I arrived just  before Brendan Rodgers left Celtic. I had a lot of good conversations with him. It was good to meet a legend and gaffer like him.

“Brendan leaving Celtic so soon after I signed was frustrating, but you’ve just got to adapt to situations.

“I haven’t had a chance to play in front of Neil Lennon, so I’d love to get that opportunity if I can get a permit.

“It would be my job to show what I’ve got to him. Celtic flew me to Glasgow to run some tests when I had an injury and I got to meet Neil and a lot of the players there.

“It was a little frustrating I couldn’t play because of an ankle ligament injury. But it was nice to be there for a little bit.”

Perez was massively impressed with the quality and calibre of the champions’ squad and has continued to keep in contact with winger Mikey Johnston.

He added: “I’m really close with Mikey. We still talk to this day and I always like to see how he’s doing.

“Mikey is an excellent player. He has a bright future ahead of him.”

“Odsonne Edouard and Mikey really impressed me. And, obviously, Scott Brown is a class player.

“He is always really clean and technical, so it was nice training with those players, really humbling.

“I like to think I’m adaptable in a lot of positions, not just one. I’ve been known to play right-wing and right-back.

“I guess we could say I’m a right-wing back. I like to use my aggression and pace to get up the flank and also provide good service for the forwards.

“That’s a big part of my game I’ve been working on. I watch a lot of the Celtic matches and Jeremie and Hatem are talented players who have been doing well.

“There’s a lot of players in that position, but I’m up for the challenge and competing for a place.”

Perez is due to return to Celtic next month, but if work permit issues cannot be resolved he will face another temporary transfer in his homeland.

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