Neil Lennon has backed Hibs’ hardline stance as they continue to knock back repeated bids from Celtic for Scotland midfielder John McGinn and claimed: “The deal might never happen.”
The Easter Road boss revealed he has played no part at all in negotiations as his old club has twice upped their offers for the 23-year-old, an initial £1.5 million increased to £1.75m and now £2m. Each time the Glasgow outfit have been met with a curt “no deal”, Hibs adamant their valuation of the former St Mirren player falls well short of what they are looking for. Lennon admitted the ongoing saga has put McGinn, whose grandfather Jack was once Celtic chairman, in a difficult situation but insisted he’d play in tonight’s Europa League clash with Asteras Tripolis of Greece as they bid to progress to the third qualifying round where Norway’s Molde or Albanian side KF Laci lie in wait.
He said: “It’s a really difficult situation for him, I’ve been in it myself. At the end of the day, John is a human being, he has feelings and emotions and it almost feels as if he is a bit exposed so we are trying to manage that the best we can.
“The club have been really strong and I totally back that.
“We have our valuation. He is our top player and no-one yet has met that valuation that satisfies the club.
“John is quite satisfied with that at the minute. I’ve had chats with him to see how he is because there will be people talking to him, the agent, his family, giving him all titbits of advice.
“I’ve been in that situation so I know how difficult it can be getting messages from here, there and everywhere. Ideally, it is good for him to train and play.
“Listen, the deal might never happen, he has to get his head round that as well so we try to prepare him for all eventualities the best we can.
“He is training, he will play tonight and until the situation changes, he is a Hibs player.”
Lennon insisted he’s been totally divorced from the issue, saying: “I do not deal with the money side of things, thankfully. I leave that to smarter people than me but I think the club have made their position pretty clear to Celtic what they value the player at and that valuation has not been met.
“I work for the club, the board, for Leeann [Dempster, chief executive].
“They are in charge, I do not get involved. They run the club and, to be fair to them, they have run it pretty well recently.
“They have taken a really strong position on this and they are right to do that.”