NEIL LENNON is planning to hold on to loan stars Fraser Forster and Mohamed Elyounoussi.
The Celtic boss wants to keep the Southampton double-act either on loan extensions or permanent deals as he gears up for a tilt at 10-in-a-row.
Skyscraper shotstopper Forster, a Hoops fans’ favourite, was a key figure in the club winning nine successive titles and was Man of the Match when they lifted the Betfred League Cup in December when he saved an Alfredo Morelos penalty-kick amid a series of stunning stops while Christopher Jullien netted the only goal of a tense encounter.
Left-sided raider Elyounoussi put in a scintillating performance in the semi-final of the competition the previous month as he scored two in the holders’ 5-2 victory over Hibs.
NATIONAL HERO…Mohamed Elyounoussi celebrates his first goal in the 5-2 Betfred League Cup semi-final win over Hibs at Hampden.
Unfortunately, the player sustained a foot injury while on international duty for Norway shortly afterwards and was just getting back into his stride when football was forced into lockdown in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The pair cost the Saints £26million in transfer fees, with £10million of that figure going to Celtic for Forster in 2014.
The one-time England keeper, 32, still has two years to run on his deal at the south-coast outfit while Elyounoussi, 25, is under contract until June 2023.
Lennon, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “We’re hopeful they’ll be around, but that’s a conversation we’ll have to have with Southampton and with the players individually.
“We’d want to keep them if we could. It keeps that continuity going rather than maybe going out and bringing other players in.
“If we could keep the services of those two, they know how we work and what the club is all about. They made really good contributions. Fraser was absolutely brilliant and Moi, up until the injury, was fantastic.”
However, it looks as though Austrian international right-back Moritz Bauer will be heading back to Championship side Stoke City.
The 28-year-old defender made only 13 appearances before the emergence of Dutch teenage sensation Jeremie Frimpong and the Hoops will also have the services of a completely-fit Hatem Abd Elhamed next season.
On the situation concerning back-up goalie Craig Gordon and versatile Republic of Ireland ace Jonny Hayes, Lennon added: “We’ll be talking with them as we go along.
“Their contracts run out on June 30, so we’ll hopefully speak with them and their representatives in the next few weeks.”