JOZO SIMUNOVIC exited Celtic when the club refused to activate the remaining 12 months clause in his contract.

That was 13 months ago – and the Croatian defender is STILL looking for a new club.

It’s a strange situation for an experienced back-four operator who will be 27 in 15 days’ time and who won five titles at Parkhead after joining in a £4million deal from Dinamo Zagreb.

The last time Simunovic, a former Hoops fans’ favourite, kicked a ball in competitive action came in the home 3-1 Europa League loss to FC Copenhagen on February 27 2020 when he unfortunately gifted the Danes the opening goal with a calamitous back pass just after the interval.

IN CONTROL…Jozo Simunovic looks comfortable on the ball.

His stay in Glasgow was plagued by injury and he made only 15 first-team appearances in his last season, but there were still some supporters who believed the hierarchy had been too hasty in allowing him to leave.

Simunovic, who underwent a knee operation two years ago and also suffered knee ligament damage three years earlier when he missed a huge chunk of the season, admitted he was “angry and sad” at being released, as CQN reported back in June last year.

He said: “It’s a bit weird as I was at Celtic for five years and was a good part of the success.

“Was I surprised to leave? I need to look at the whole situation in football right now and everything isn’t great with Covid-19.

THE CUP THAT CHEERS…Jozo Simunovic celebrates a Scottish Cup triumph.

“It was the club’s decision and I need to accept it. They are looking at everything as a business.

“What can I do? Of course, I can say I am angry and sad that I am not at Celtic for next season.

“But I cannot change that. It’s the club’s decision and I need to respect it. It won’t spoil the way I look back at my Celtic career. I am still very happy and proud.”

Simunovic added: “I cannot look back with bitterness because I had the chance to have five years at a great club.

“I loved every game I played for Celtic and I need to thank my team-mates, my coaches and especially the fans for their support.”

BRAVE FACE…Jozo Simunovic with an optimistic message following a knee operation in September 2019.

In August, it was reported Simunovic was about to kick-start his career with Trabzonspor. However, the opportunity to agree a three-year deal collapsed after medical issues were flagged up. It was an identical situation with another Turkish club, Goztepe, and Rijeka, from his homeland.

In February this year, the Croatian was said to be ready to make a stunning comeback in the Bundesliga with Stuttgart and Augsburg interested.

Those moves didn’t materialise and, more recently, he was linked with Southampton, but there seemed little likelihood of that proposed deal ever getting the go-ahead.

Today, though, Simunovic remains on the sidelines and hopes that someone will take a chance on him.

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v FC Midtjylland this evening – only in your champion CQN.


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