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Celtic need to plan for life after Scott Sinclair.
The 30-year-old recently had his deal extended at Parkhead after the club took up the option to add a further 12 months on his contract.
Manager Neil Lennon may have only started Sinclair in half of the games since he took the reins once again in late February but he said: “Scott has been a good player since he walked in the door. It's a big boost for the squad. He has made a big contribution in the goals column and that football intelligence and experience is always important to have around.
“There is a familiarity there for Scott going into the Champions League qualifiers next season. He is one we don't need to replace.”
Despite this, it would be negligent if the club didn’t have a list of eventual successors drawn up. The former Chelsea youngster has been a key player for the club since moving North in 2016, hitting a minimum of 15 goals in all three seasons in Scotland.
And while Celtic would no doubt prefer to keep him, the club aren’t in a position to turn down big money and allow the player to move for nothing in 12 months time. Reports suggest Championship side Middlesbrough are keen on the winger and are willing to pay £2million for him.
Celtic could cash in now and invest that money in a signing this summer. With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at four possible candidates for the Bhoys should they look to replace their prolific wide player.
The Liverpool youngster has been in limbo for the past two seasons. Jürgen Klopp wouldn’t allow him to leave on loan during the 2017/18 campaign while his loan spell with Sheffield United this year was disappointing to say the least.
However, it’s clear that the 19-year-old has the ability to really shine. He just needs somewhere to hone his craft.
Comfortable playing anywhere across the front line, he might not be as explosively quick as Sinclair but he’s no slouch. And what he lacks in speed he makes up for in intelligence.
The Scottish Premiership isn’t a proving ground but Parkhead is the perfect environment for a player of Woodburn’s ability to flourish.
Another former Liverpool youngster. Peterson was tipped for a bright future while on Merseyside but the hype fizzled out. He moved to Holland and turned out for Utrecht, spending a season on loan with Roda JC before eventually moving to Heracles in 2017.
There, the 24-year-old found a home and began to show exactly why he was so highly rated as a youngster. This season he’s netted on 12 occasions and assisted five in the Eredivisie.
His 2.47 dribbles per 90 minutes can only be bettered by seven players in the Dutch top flight and the Sweden international gets an impressive 41 per cent of his shots on target.
Give him an even bigger platform and he’d grow into it. Right now he’s a big fish in a small pond.
Brown has had a forgettable two years due to injuries but ahead of the 2017/18 season, the Chelsea man was one of the most sought after youngsters in England.
His loan spells with Rotherham United and Huddersfield Town during the 2016/17 campaign gave the world a glimpse of what he could do and it’s why there were a number of clubs looking to land him on loan.
His stock has fallen and if he’s to get his career back on track he needs to go somewhere that could guarantee him first-team football on a regular basis. Now, Celtic shouldn’t be making promises to players over minutes but the Bhoys are in a position to make the 22-year-old a key part of their squad.
Brown’s versatility lends itself to that, too. He’s able to play on either flanks, as a No.10 or even as the man leading the line. Again, he’s not as quick as Sinclair but the positions he takes up and his use of the ball means he is still a real threat.
The wildcard of the list. Kent is a firm favourite with Rangers fans and has said he would like to extend his stay in Glasgow beyond this season. He recently revealed he was tired of being farmed out on loan and wanted to find a permanent home.
Kent, unlike the others mentioned above, knows the league. He knows the demands and he knows the players he’ll be up against. He might at first be reluctant to jump ship but Celtic can offer something Rangers can’t: Champions League football.
He’s averaging one goal every four matches this season and in a team that dominates possession, which Celtic do, he’s likely to improve his output.
He would improve the squad. It’s just a bonus that the club would be getting one over on Rangers at the same time.