Stoke City boss Michael O’Neill has claimed it is “highly unlikely” that James McClean will leave the club this summer, handing Celtic a transfer blow after recent rumours.
The winger has been restricted to just Carabao Cup appearances for the Potters this season and has not been named in either of the matchday squads for their first two Championship games.
McClean’s absence in the league has coincided with rumours circling on social media that Celtic were keen on signing the 31-year-old this summer.
Speaking to the Stoke Sentinel earlier today, O’Neill suggested there was no truth in those suggestions and indicated that it was “highly unlikely” that the winger will be leaving the club in the current window.
He said: “I think that’s probably just a rumour that’s been created by someone – and it certainly hasn’t come from our end. James isn’t a player, equally, that we are looking to lose at this minute in time.
“The nature of the transfer window is such that you have to be flexible and if any situation arises with any player you have to give it consideration, particularly where we are at this minute in time.
“We have to obviously deal with the rules of Financial Fair Play and deal with too a squad which is bloated.
“James is no different from any other player in the squad and if the situation arose we’d have to consider it but at this minute in time, I think that would be highly unlikely.
McClean won the club’s player of the year award last season, having scored seven times and providing nine assists – arguably his finest campaign since arriving in English football nearly a decade ago.
What club did Stoke City sign each of these 14 players on loan from?
That looks a blow to any hopes that Celtic may have held of signing the Stoke player.
There are, of course, questions over the validity of the rumours in the first place but if McClean was a player that the Scottish club were keen on it seems they will have a job on their hands prizing him away from O’Neill.
Despite the fact he is yet to feature in a Championship squad this season, the Stoke coach still appears to value the 31-year-old highly.
That’s no surprise given the impressive performances he produced last season, which was perhaps the finest of his career to date.