JOZO SIMUNOVIC will ease the pressure on Celtic boss Neil Lennon to sign a new defender by proving he is ready for the rigours of the second half of a crucial season.

The Croatian centre-half returned to light training at Lennoxtown at the end of last month and has been involved in the early sessions with the first team squad in Dubai at the weekend.

Simunovic has been missing since undergoing knee surgery in September and his last appearance was the 2-0 Europa League qualifying win over AIK Stockholm at Parkhead the previous month.

Originally, it was thought the former Dinamo Zagreb back-four operator would be out for a month, but there was no sign of the player for three months as Lennon had to field Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton as a makeshift centre-half to bolster his back line where he has relied upon £7million Frenchman Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer.

The 22-year-old Norwegian international is ranked number two only to Callum McGregor as the player who has clocked up most minutes in world football – as CQN reported – and has looked in need of a break in recent outings.

That has led Lennon to being linked with several new players for the heart of the rearguard.

Back in September, Simunovic appeared on social media to share an Arnold Schwarzenegger-themed message made famous in one of his Terminator films that insisted: “I’ll be back.”

He was photographed with his right leg heavily bandaged following the operation in a London hospital and the message was loud and clear from the smiling defender, as CQN reported.

Now, a bit later than anticipated, Simunovic is on the way back which could ease a burned on his manager.


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