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JOZO EXPLAINS CELTIC EXIT

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JOZO SIMUNOVIC reckons his Celtic career was wrecked due to the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Croatian defender insists the champions were poised to extend his contract in the summer before being forced to withdraw the offer.

Simunovic left the club after five years in June and is still looking for a new team six months later.

The injury-prone 26-year-old centre-back, who is currently training with his hometown club in Zagreb, admitted he was surprised to be allowed to leave the club he joined in August 2015.

Simunovic, speaking to the Glasgow Times, said: “It was settled that Celtic were going to extend the contract with me and, just a few days before they needed to let me know that they were going to extend the deal, I got the phone call and a letter saying that they are very sorry, but due to the situation with Covid they were stopping it.”

The ball-playing back-four operator, who played in the Hoops’ 2-1 Scottish Cup Final triumph over Hearts on May 25 last year to seal the unprecedented treble treble, has been linked with several clubs since leaving Glasgow.

AC MIlan, who beat Neil Lennon’s men home and away in their recent Europa League Group H encounters, were reported to be interested, but nothing came of the speculation. Turkish outfit Goztepe are the latest club rumoured to be signing the player, but there appears to be no basis to the stories.

Frustrated Simunovic said: “There have been some talks with two or three clubs, but never to the end. Everything was okay and then we wait and wait. But nothing happened at the point when we needed to do something and get to the final point.

“That was just with two or three clubs and there is a lot of talk about other clubs, but I do not know who throws the names out there and where they get your details.”

Simunovic missed a chunk of his last season at the champions after undergoing knee surgery, an injury which has led to questions about his long-term fitness.

He commented: “That is nothing new, as all the time with me there was that cross with the injuries and everything. I understand some clubs that could not get me to sign that they put out this, but it was not true and I expect in the future that if I have talks with a club and we do not do a deal to the end then they can blame the injury because in all my years at Celtic, that was my biggest cross.

“Every time if I was not in the team or on the bench, I knew they would blame my knee. I now have to live with that and for me it is no problem.”

During his time with the Hoops, he lifted five league titles, three Scottish Cups and three League Cups and Simunovic added: “I had amazing memories there because I won everything that is possible.

“I have many more good memories than bad with Celtic. I cannot moan now about my contract finishing and not being extending there, I need to focus on better things, on the great things I did with the club when I was there with my team-mates – the many trophies, many finals, many derbies and the testimonials, playing in honour of club legends.”

 
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