Celtic F.C. manager Neil Lennon admits it is unlikely Georgios Samaras will sign a new deal with the Scottish Premier League champions in the summer.
The Greece international, whose current contract at Parkhead will expire at the end of the season, joined Celtic from Manchester City for an undisclosed fee — rumoured to be between £1 million and £3 million — in July 2008.
Since arriving in Glasgow, Samaras has helped Celtic win six trophies (Scottish Premier League: 2007/08, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, Scottish League Cup: 2009, Scottish Cup: 2011, 2013), while bagging 73 goals in 249 appearances in all competitions for the club.
The Greek ace also played a pivotal role in the club’s Cinderella run in the UEFA Champions League in 2012/13, which came to an end in the Round of 16 against Italian giants Juventus.
Samaras, valued at around £5 million by Celtic boss Neil Lennon, is expected to search for pastures new when the transfer window re-opens in the summer.
“Georgios hasn’t come out and said this yet but I’d imagine he would be moving on in the summer,” conceded Lennon.
“We only have three or four weeks of the season left and there has been no indication he will stay so I’m assuming he will go.
“He may want a new challenge and something to get his teeth into. He would get a top-level club – top eight in somewhere like Spain, Italy and Germany.
“Georgios has had considerable interest from bigger clubs. I don’t know what his target destination is. He has turned down offers from clubs.
“In his own mind he has a set country where he would like to play but I don’t know what that is.”
The 2012/13 Celtic Supporters’ Player of the Year — who is best-priced at 446/ 1 to win the 2014 World Cup with Greece this summer — has been linked with Atlético Madrid, Sunderland and Swansea City in recent times.
When asked about signing a direct replacement for Samaras, Lennon added: “Can I directly replace him? I’d like to. But big, quick, athletic and technically good players are hard to find.
“Everyone is looking for players like that. He will be an asset wherever he goes. He certainly was for us.
“I don’t know if I can directly replace him but I’m going to try anyway.”
Meanwhile, Lennon will have to ward off Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United from signing highly-rated Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk, who has been nominated for the PFA Scotland Premiership Player of the Year award.