Lennon: I'm leaving Celtic

Celtic captain Neil Lennon will leave the club at the end of the season.

Celtic captain Neil Lennon will leave the club at the end of the season.

The 35-year-old’s contract expires this summer and he had been expected to hold talks with a view to extending his stay.

However the Tennent’s Scottish Cup final against Dunfermline on May 26 is now set to be his last match for the club.

Lennon said: “Obviously having been with the club for so long, it will be a real wrench to leave, but I have thought long and hard about this decision and believe that it is the right one.

“I feel it is right to go out on a high and given that we have just secured the league title for the second year running, I believe that this is the best decision at the best time.”

Lennon joined Celtic from Leicester in December 2000, costing £5.75m (€8.4m) as he teamed up with former Foxes boss Martin O’Neill at Parkhead.

This season’s Bank of Scotland Premier League title was his fifth since moving north of the border, with Celtic the dominant force in the Scottish game during his six-and-a-half seasons at the club.

The former Northern Ireland international has been the protective shield in midfield during the era of sustained success, the like of which Celtic had not known since the early 1970s.

He has not retired from playing, and could seek a new club in England.

Lennon recently warned manager Gordon Strachan he would be unwilling to settle for the occasional cameo role at Celtic, saying: “I don’t want to be the old player that hangs around clapping the boys off.”

Former Old Firm star Mo Johnston has already expressed an interest in recruiting Lennon for his Toronto FC side, the Canadian outfit who are in the early stages of their maiden Major League Soccer campaign.

A move overseas looks unlikely just yet however, with the midfielder already rejecting the prospect of playing in America next season.

Lennon made his 300th appearance for Celtic in the 2-1 win at Kilmarnock on Sunday which clinched a second successive league title.

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