Football: Larsson happy to remain at Celtic

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HENRIK LARSSON has signed a new four-year contract with Celtic. The Swedish striker, leading scorer in Scotland this season with 37 goals, has been a revelation since his pounds 600,000 arrival at the Glasgow club two years ago from Feyenoord.

Larsson has always emphasised he is settled at Celtic, and now it appears a revised offer to the player has paid dividends for the Scottish champions. The 27-year-old international added that this will be the last deal he will sign before returning to finish his career in Sweden.

Apart from the boost it gives to Celtic's push for the double, it is also a fillip for the Scottish game. After a season when a number of leading players have criticised the standard of football north of the border, Larsson criticised the doubters.

"When I came over here I wasn't in my national team," he said. "I started playing well here and after that I was picked for Sweden, so Scottish football has worked for me. We have 60,000 fans watching us every week and the stadium is a great arena to play in. Also, if we get into Europe, it is a higher level still and I am happy to be here."

There had been doubts that Larsson could come to an agreement with the Glasgow club's owner, Fergus McCann, whose abrasive style did not suit the Swede. However, McCann has now been replaced as chief executive by Allan MacDonald and he wasted no time in persuading Larsson to stay.

"It took a little bit longer than I first thought," Larsson said. "But the effort of Mr MacDonald and the Celtic board made it an easy decision. Four years is a long time to commit yourself and I had to discuss it thoroughly with my family and friends. The club is aiming to do well in Europe and I have a great belief that we will."

On the blue side of the Scottish city, Rangers' unsettled Argentinian striker Gabriel Amato has declared his wish to return to Spain at the end of the season after issuing a damning verdict on the Scottish game. The pounds 4.2m summer capture from Real Mallorca has struggled for both form and fitness since arriving at Ibrox.

Amato outlined his view in the newspaper Marca that the Scottish Premier League compares poorly with the Spanish top flight. The criticism comes despite the player being unable to make an impression in Scotland, with only four goals. He said: "I'm clear in my mind I would like to return to Spain, especially if I win the title with Rangers. Scottish football bears no comparison with the Spanish game and I prefer the customs in Spain."

Amato did score in the New Year Old Firm derby, but has remained an occasional substitute under Dick Advocaat. Earlier this term there was interest from Leicester in the player, but now Valencia are believed to be his most likely future destination. The man who managed Amato during his successful spell in Mallorca, Hector Cupar, is being lined up to manage Valencia next term.

Amato's Rangers' team-mate, Lionel Charbonnier, has resumed training after knee ligament damage sustained in November, while the American midfielder Claudio Reyna, Rangers' pounds 2m signing from Wolfsburg, has now arrived in Glasgow. However, the transfer was not completed in time for him to be eligible for the Scottish Cup final with Celtic in May.