Strachan closing in on £5m capture of Netherlands striker Vennegoor

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The Independent Online

Celtic were locked in transfer talks last night with the striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and the Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Lee Naylor.

PSV Eindhoven have given the 27-year-old Netherlands international permission to speak to the Scottish Premier League champions after agreeing a fee in the region of £5m. But after initial fears over his wage demands, it appears the latest negotiations have gone well.

Celtic were also engaged in talks with Naylor yesterday afternoon after agreeing a £600,000 fee and the free transfer of the promising young full-back Charles Mulgrew with Wolves.

Celtic have already captured Jiri Jarosik, Derek Riordan, Gary Caldwell, Evander Sno and Naylor's former Wolves team-mate Kenny Miller this summer as they prepare for the Champions' League group stages.

Mulgrew, who impressed on loan with Dundee United last season, is speaking to Wolves and the deal will also be subject to both players passing medicals.

Naylor, who is in his ninth season as a professional at Molineux after coming through from the youth side, has one year left on his contract. The Wolves chief executive, Jez Moxey, said: "Lee made it plainly clear he wouldn't sign the new four-year contract we had previously agreed and insisted he wanted to join Celtic.

"Faced with that situation the club reluctantly decided to agree to his request, providing the financial terms were right for us and that we received Charlie Mulgrew on a free transfer as well."

With those two players on board, Gordon Strachan, the Celtic manager, would be more than happy to see the transfer window close.

The Aston Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, is thought to be preparing another move for midfielder Stilian Petrov, with Portsmouth now out of the picture.

Strachan said: "A lot of clubs will be finding the uncertainty of, 'Who is going and who is staying' quite difficult at the moment and once this window is out of the way, we'll be thinking, 'Right, now we can really work with this group'.

"We are looking forward to getting together and bonding as a group," he added, "and it just seems that there is an eerie atmosphere at the top of the League just now."

As Celtic wait to find out today who their opponents will be in the Champions' League group stages, the club's captain Neil Lennon is looking for a kind draw but would also relish taking on with the Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Celtic will discover their three opponents this afternoon. Having been placed in pot two, they could land the defending champions Barcelona, the beaten finalists Arsenal, Milan, Internazionale, Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid or Valencia.

Celtic have faced high-profile European opposition in recent years and a meeting with Real Madrid would represent another huge challenge.

Lennon said: "I am looking forward to the draw. We have played a lot of great sides over the years, it's a very special competition and everyone is looking forward to it.

"Over the years, out of all the big teams we have played against, the one that's missing is probably Real Madrid," he added. "That would be a nice draw and it would be good if we got some of the easier teams - that is if there are any easy teams in the Champions' League.

"I just hope that the draw is kind to us this year because we have had a couple of tough groups over the years and, hopefully, we will be looking at a draw that gives us a fighting chance of getting through."

Celtic's Old Firm rivals, Rangers, are close to completing Hamed Namouchi's move to the French club Lorient on a three-year deal.

An agreement has been reached out between the clubs and the 22-year-old Tunisia midfielder is due in France for a medical.

Namouchi has been told he has no part in the plans of the Rangers manager, Paul Le Guen, in the wake of other signings. Nacho Novo, Jose Pierre-Fanfan, Olivier Bernard and Bob Malcolm have also been told they can move on.

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