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NI boss wants Lafferty to stay in England despite foreign interest

By Steven Beacom

Published 23/12/2015

Michael O'Neill would prefer to see star striker Kyle Lafferty stay in England when he leaves Norwich City next month. Lafferty has been linked with his former club Palermo in Italy, Red Star Belgrade in Serbia and Lyon in France.

Now another French side, Saint-Etienne, are weighing up a move for the 28-year-old.

The Ligue 1 outfit have a good relationship with Norwich having dealt with them on transfers before and are keen to sign a forward to bolster their attack.

The Northern Ireland manager, however, suggests it would be better for the striker to remain in the British game ahead of the Euro 2016 finals.

The Fermanagh man was sensational in qualifying, scoring seven times, and will be instrumental in O'Neill's plans for France.

O'Neill has been mystified by what has happened to Lafferty under Alex Neil at Norwich.

He went out on loan last season to Turkish side Caykur Rizespor for first team football and this term has only played 27 minutes for the Canaries despite his superb form for his country at the highest level.

The ex-Rangers front man is desperate for some action and has been told by Neil that he can depart Carrow Road in the transfer window, with a loan deal the most likely outcome.

Long-time admirers Leeds United fancy taking him to Elland Road to boost their performances in the Championship, while Premier League Bournemouth are believed to be monitoring the situation, though it is unlikely Lafferty would be first choice there.

He also has all the interest from abroad to consider.

O'Neill says it is vital that Lafferty is match ready, fit and firing for the Euro finals.

"It is important for Kyle that his club situation changes," says O'Neill, who has transformed Lafferty's international career.

"He has basically sat out the first half of the season and had just 27 minutes of football.

"Club managers have a job to do but I don't think Kyle has had an opportunity at Norwich.

"I know he played for Norwich under-21s the other week and scored a brilliant goal against Manchester United but ultimately it wasn't enough to get him on the bench the following Saturday.

"That is very frustrating for a player but it is the nature of the Premier League. There are lots of internationals in the Premier League not getting a game.

"I know Kyle wants the situation resolved. He wants to play.

"His move to Turkey last season was driven by wanting to play. I don't think he had a great desire to have Rizespor on his CV but he wanted to be playing leading into our games with Finland and Romania."

O'Neill joked that with the Euro finals being hosted there, a move to France may work, but England is clearly his first choice for Lafferty.

"I would probably prefer him to stay in England, but as long as he is happy and playing that's the main thing," he said.

"Very few players go abroad and settle straight away, so given we are six months from the finals I don't know if it would be in his interests to go to a foreign club. He would probably be more suited at this moment to stay in the UK."

Belfast Telegraph

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