Exclusive - Celtic are increasingly keen to sign a replacement for Scott Brown this summer, fearing their 35-year-old captain will be unable to see out the season. Crystal Palace's James McCarthy is the player they want, but they will have to sell to raise funds for the 29-year-old.
Brown's form in the Hoops' questionable start to the season has been a major point of concern at Celtic Park. He has started every competitive match so far, but his declining mobility was laid bare in the shock 2-1 defeat to Ferencvaros that saw them exit the Champions League prematurely.
Celtic are facing an historic season as they look to retain their Premiership title for a tenth successive season, but they are already under pressure on that front after Rangers' impressive start.With an intense season on the horizon, then, a source has indicated to 90min that there are real fears over Brown's ability to retain his usual ever-present status. The Hoops want to recruit his replacement now, allowing for a transition year ahead of Brown's contract expiring next summer, and still see McCarthy as their primary target.
On the latter note, it seems little has changed since 90min first reported on the situation earlier this month. Celtic, then, were confident of fending off interest from Premier League clubs, and it seems they have since stepped up their plans to bring him to Scotland.
McCarthy is a boyhood Celtic fan and is believed to be keen to link up with Neil Lennon's team.
Brown almost left Celtic for an Australian club in January, but wanted to stay at Parkhead for the remainder of his contract. The Hoops' challenge for ten-in-a-row will have been a major factor behind that decision, as Brown is one of the only remaining members of the squad who regained the title back in 2011/12.
The Scottish champions are working with a limited budget this summer, so if they are to recruit McCarthy, they will require a sale or two first. Odsonne Edouard, Olivier Ntcham and Kristoffer Ajer have all attracted serious interest, and could be sold for significant fees.
Alternatively, Celtic could wait until January and negotiate a pre-contract deal with the Ireland midfielder. That runs the risk of another club coming in before then, however - Newcastle, Leeds and Aston Villa are all in the running.
Source : 90min