Samaras joins Celtic on Euro mission

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The Independent Football

Georgios Samaras completed a loan move to Celtic from Manchester City yesterday, saying a major motivation was a desire to reclaim a place in the Greek national side for Euro 2008.

Samaras, 22, signed for City for £6m in January 2006 but has scored just eight goals in 55 Premier League games, 27 of them as a sub. The 6ft 4in forward is not in Sven Goran Eriksson's plans, having featured in five league games this season, and Celtic have an option to buy him when the loan expires in the summer.

"One of the reasons I signed is [to] use the games to help Celtic, and, of course, for the chance to be in the squad for the national team of Greece for the summer," Samaras said. "I'm here to help Celtic and for Celtic to help me."

Samaras' hiring is Celtic manager Gordon Strachan's fourth acquisition in this transfer window. The German international right-back, Andreas Hinkel, arrived from Seville for £1.9m earlier this month. Celtic have also agreed on a pre-contract deal to sign Ben Hutchinson, a 20-year-old Middlesbrough striker, in the summer. The Scottish champions yesterday completed the signing of Koki Mizuno, a 22-year-old Japanese midfielder, from JEF United of the J League, for three-and-a-half years.

Samaras could be the make-or-break signing at home and in Europe, with Celtic four points behind Rangers in this season's title race, in need of strength in depth up front. Of five first-team strikers, only two of them have scored more than one league goal: Scott McDonald (15) and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (nine).

With Manchester City not in Europe, Samaras is free to play in the Champions League for Celtic, starting against Barcelona in the last-16 home leg on 20 February.

"I've never played in the Champions League before and I will do my best to get to the next round," he said. "It will be very difficult, but in football you never know."

Mizuno, capped three times, becomes Celtic's second Japanese midfielder, alongside Shunsuke Nakamura, the reigning Scottish Footballer of the Year.

Strachan received a four-match touchline ban yesterday after being found guilty of unacceptable conduct during a match at Aberdeen in August.

Celtic coach Tommy Burns said at the time that Strachan had been defending his assistant Garry Pendrey following accusations he had made a rude gesture to the Aberdeen fans behind the dugout.

The Hearts coach Stephen Frail, meanwhile, avoided a two-match ban after being found not guilty of dissent. He was sent to the stands during his team's match at Kilmarnock on 27 October.

The former England captain Terry Butcher has agreed to become part of Scotland manager George Burley's backroom staff. Burley asked his former Ipswich team-mate Butcher and the Celtic defender Steven Pressley to assist him after he was appointed last week.

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