O'Neill seeks Okocha to add flair in midfield
Wednesday 25 February 2004
Celtic are planning an ambitious move to sign Bolton's Nigerian star Jay-Jay Okocha on a free transfer at the season's end.
The African ace can quit Sam Allardyce's side and has yet to agree a new deal to stay in the English Premiership, leaving the door open for Martin O'Neill to take him at the second time of asking. O'Neill tried for the attacking midfielder two years ago, when he left Paris St-Germain, but he chose to play in England instead because of the better level of football.
Okocha wants to remain south of the border, but the fact that Bolton have yet to agree terms on a two-year renewal means O'Neill is on red alert for a swoop. The Parkhead manager has his attacking style to offer Okocha and also the chance of Champions' League football, which he will not get at Bolton.
The final word will be down to finance, with Bolton paying Okocha £30,000-a-week - and his pay packet about to increase even more this summer. Celtic will find it hard to match that although the loss of Henrik Larsson's salary will mean there is some space to work with.
O'Neill wants more flair in his midfield and a match-winner like Okocha - named the player of the tournament in the African Nations Cup - would be loved by the Celtic fans.
Bolton hope to tie down Okocha before their Carling Cup final on Sunday, but if they do not reach agreement then Celtic are leading the hunt for the talented star.
The Celtic striker Shaun Maloney is unlikely to play again this season if early indications that he has cruciate ligament damage are confirmed. The young forward was left in agony just five minutes into an Under-21 game against Partick Thistle yesterday, and was pencilled in for an MRI scan early this morning to assess the extend of the damage.
He spent the best part of the day having tests on his left knee and early examinations have raised suspicions of anterior cruciate ligament damage.
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