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Neil Lennon explains why Celtic were unable to sell unhappy players last summer

“It creates a bit of disaffection and tension in the group at times.”

Covid-19’s economical impact on the transfer market prevented Celtic from selling players last August, according to former manager Neil Lennon.

The Armagh man, 49, says that some unnamed players were interested in leaving the Scottish Premiership club, with board members and management happy to sell for the right price.

Some players within the group were eager to experience life at a new club after seasons of dominance with the Glasgow giants and rather than force them to stick around, Lennon was content for his club to cash in before their contracts expired.

However, the Hoops received just ‘one bid for one player’ which meant they were left with no option but to start the season with a divisive playing squad. In the end, Celtic finished the season in second place – 25 points short of bitter rivals Rangers – and were also eliminated from the Europa League at the group stages.

Neil Lennon on managing unsettled players at Celtic last season.

According to Lennon, things may well have turned out differently if buying clubs had the financial muscle to purchase some of his want-away stars. In normal circumstances Celtic could have started the season with a squad all pulling in the same direction, but keeping unhappy players around meant there was occasional “disaffection and tension” amongst the group.

“With this huge talk about winning 10 in-a-row and working through the pandemic – which was really difficult for the players, particularly the ones who had come from outside of Scotland – it just didn’t happen for us this year,” Lennon told BBC Scotland.

“We’d gone from before lockdown being rampant but when the boys came back after the three-month break a lot had changed in their mindset.

“Some of them wanted to move on, which I got because we were on the verge of winning a fourth treble. Some of them had reached the top of the mountain and were starting to think about trying a career somewhere else, which is understandable.

“But it creates a bit of disaffection and tension in the group at times.

“There was some of that, there’s no question of that. It’s one thing these players wanting to go – and at the time before the lockdown they were big money – but because of what happened, not just in Britain but all over Europe, finances diminished very, very quickly with a lot of clubs.

“We had one bid for one player and it wasn’t anywhere near enough. We decided that: one, we can’t sell him for that kind of money, and: two, that we’d keep them on and try to manage them through the season.

“It was very, very difficult for them and for us as well at the time.”

Earlier this week Celtic appointed former Australia boss Ange Postecoglou as their new manager and Hoops fans will be hoping they can enjoy a better campaign under the 55-year-old’s guidance next season.

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