Heng to sit out Euro campaign

Zheng Zhi will not be able to play in Celtic’s Europa League group games after UEFA today confirmed he was not registered in time.

The Hoops were today trying to wrap up the free transfer of China captain Zheng, who arrived in Glasgow yesterday evening to pen a reported two-year deal.

Although the 29-year-old is able to complete a move outside the transfer window, Celtic needed to register the player with the Scottish Football Association by 11pm last night for him to be eligible for European competition before the new year.

UEFA revealed this afternoon this had not happened, meaning Zheng – who is able to play both in midfield and up front – will be forced to sit out the Hoops’ European campaign until the knockout round begins in February.

A work permit was last night the main stumbling block to the completion of the transfer of Zheng, who is a free agent after being released by Charlton.

Manager Tony Mowbray remained behind in Glasgow to conclude the deal, while assistant Mark Venus took Celtic – minus their international players – to Toronto for a friendly against Benfica.

The match, which kicks off at 12.30am UK time, was expected to see a number of unfamiliar faces blooded, including under-19s players James Forrest and Luca Santonocito, and Latvian duo Krisjanis Vallers and Anton Kurakins.

Venus told the club’s official website, www.celticfc.net: “This game represents an opportunity for some of the younger players and we are all right with the team we have.

“Josh Thompson, the young boy we have signed from Stockport County, will make his debut tomorrow and so will our American goalkeeper, Dominic Cervi.

“It’s good for them to play against a top side at a lovely ground in a nice country.”

Midfielder Shaun Maloney is one of Celtic’s current Scotland internationals and is currently preparing for the must-win World Cup qualifying double-header against FYR Macedonia and Holland.

Although he has not travelled to Canada with his club, the 26-year-old has racked up the air miles already this season after trips to Brisbane, Moscow and London.

Europa League clashes in Israel, Germany and Austria are also on the horizon and Maloney believes spending time overseas has helped the squad bond with their summer signings.

“In some ways, it doesn’t actually feel like we are only a couple of games into the SPL season,” Maloney told Celtic View.

“I think with the travelling we have had in pre-season, and the away games in Russia and London, it’s felt a lot longer.

“That’s something we’ve had to deal with. But the advantage of the travelling is that the group is together.

“We have signed Landry N’Guemo, Marco Fortune and Danny Fox, and they’ve settled in.

“It’s been a pretty easy transition for them to come into the squad and they’ve all been impressive.”

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