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Bellamy one of the best, says Celtic boss Lennon

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has said he will be signing one of the top players in the Barclays Premier League if his loan swoop for Craig Bellamy comes off.

Celtic have opened talks with Manchester City and Bellamy's representatives as the Wales striker looks set to be frozen out by Roberto Mancini.

Bellamy was yesterday left out of City's Europa League squad for the play-off against Timisoara despite there being two unused spaces.

The snub has fuelled speculation that Mancini will omit the 31-year-old from his 25-man Premier League pool and seek to offload him from the wage bill.

It has also come as a huge surprise to Lennon, who played alongside the City forward when he joined Celtic on loan in 2005.

Lennon said: “I thought he was their best player last year and I would say, outside Chelsea and Manchester United, he was probably the best player in the Premier League.

“When you see someone of the calibre of Craig and the fact that he's not in the 25 and he's looking to go out and play football, then it would be remiss of me not to look into it.

“We've been speaking to his representatives and we've been speaking to Man City.

“How far down the line we are will be down to Craig obviously.

“But the advantage we have is that, one, it's not in the Premier League and, two, he has been here before and he enjoyed his time here and made a huge impact on the game up here and has a real connection with the supporters.”

Celtic are likely to face stiff competition for Bellamy but his arrival would fill the void left by Aiden McGeady's imminent transfer to Spartak Moscow.

McGeady has undergone a medical with the Russian club and is expected to complete his £9.5million switch before Celtic kick off their Clydesdale Bank Premier League campaign at Inverness on Saturday.

“It's what he wanted to do and sometimes you can't stand in the way of that,” Lennon added.

“It's a huge offer for one player and I think it's the right offer. It's probably good business for Spartak and good business for us.

“I'm sorry to lose him, he is one of the entertainers in the game. We'll probably miss out on his peak years but he came to us and said that he felt at the end of the season it would be better for him to move on.”

McGeady's transfer could pave the way for more arrivals with Real Valladolid's Jacobo and Keiren Westwood of Coventry among his goalkeeping targets.

“They are options for us, we have a list of three or four for each position and we're working away,” said Lennon.

“I don't know if we'll have anything for you before the weekend but we're hopeful that things can be done in the next week or so.”

Lennon will be without Gary Hooper at Inverness after the striker suffered a knock in Sunday's pre-season defeat by Blackburn but he hopes to have captain Scott Brown free from ankle pain.

However, he expects a tough encounter against the Irn-Bru First Division champions in the Highlands.

“It's a very proud community. We'll be up against a very highly-motivated team who will be out to get a big scalp on the first day of the season.”

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