Celtic manager Neil Lennon must dip into the transfer market this summer
After securing their 44th Scottish League Championship with a 4-1 home win against Inverness in April and with the Scottish Cup final coming up this month, the summer transfer window could be a busy period for Celtic this year.
Manager Neil Lennon has some thinking to do as fierce rivals Rangers enter the Scottish Second Division next season—Rangers were champions of the third tier after their liquidation last summer. With this in mind, he will have to look for some good long-term signings as it is likely Rangers will enjoy a second successive promotion and re-enter the Scottish Premier League next year; as such, both Lennon and Celtic will be mindful of continuing their recent dominance of the Old Firm rivalry.
Celtic may also have to deal with the loss of some of their star players this summer, such as forward Gary Hooper, midfielder Victor Wanyama and goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
This considered, Celtic will have to invest their money wisely this summer to continue their dominance of Scottish football and make an impression in Europe following this year's last-16 exit to Juventus.
So which players would fit the bill without breaking the bank? Here are the top five candidates.
Current club: Sunderland
Estimated value: £3 million
Westwood has established himself as the Republic of Ireland's first-choice 'keeper after Shay Given retired from international football last year.
With Belgian Simon Mignolet forcing his way into the Sunderland line-up ahead of Westwood following his impressive form over the last couple of seasons, it may be time for the latter to look for pastures new at this stage of his career, having made just three appearances (all in the Capital One Cup) for his current club.
With Newcastle reportedly interested in current Celtic number one Fraser Forster (according to the Daily Mail), Westwood would be a neat replacement due to his wealth of experience and shot-stopping ability, as well as his relatively low cost.
Current club: Sunderland
Estimated value: £6.5 million
The young Irishman is no stranger to controversy—having refused to wear a Remembrance poppy on his shirt, just like the entire Celtic team—but there can be no doubts as to his potential on the pitch.
The former Derry City midfielder has made himself a stalwart of Paolo Di Canio's Sunderland side, making 36 Premier League appearances last season. This was accompanied by a seemingly meagre two goals and three assists, but with 34 shots it was not for lack of confidence.
McClean could be seen as the perfect competition for 21-year-old sideman James Forrest and eventual replacement for 29-year-old Kris Commons at the Glasgow club.
Position: Central midfielder
Current club: Wigan
Estimated value: £7 million
With his current club Wigan Athletic having just been relegated from the English Premier League, now is the perfect opportunity for Neil Lennon to pounce for the young midfielder whose pedigree is such that he has been apparently of interest to giants Arsenal and Chelsea, according to the Independent.
A Republic of Ireland international, McCarthy was a rare bright spot in Wigan's dire relegation campaign and, as such, is likely to move away from the Lancashire club. As playing time would be in short supply at the aforementioned Arsenal or Chelsea, Celtic would be the perfect destination to build on his 2012-13 Premier League season (starting every game, scoring three and assisting two).
He could also ensure Celtic are not left threadbare in central midfield if powerhouse Victor Wanyama moves to Arsenal or Manchester United, which is a possibility according to the Metro.
Current club: Motherwell
Estimated value: £4 million
The promising attacker with a sharp eye for a goal or incisive pass was an integral part of the Motherwell side that finished runners-up to Celtic in last season's Scottish Premier League.
The Estonian finished the 2012-13 campaign with four goals and 12 assists from 38 total appearances, and his ability may mean that he will not be limited to second place next time, with a step up to the champions on the cards.
His potential low transfer price and wages will be of particular encouragement to Celtic, where he would battle with current youngsters Tony Watt and James Forrest for first-team appearances as backup for Anthony Stokes, Gary Hooper, Joe Ledley and Kris Commons.
His versatility in the forward line is also attractive, being able to play either as the main striker or out wide.
Current club: Wolverhampton Wanderers
Estimated value: £5 million
The talented forward spent the whole of the 2012-13 season on loan at Hibs, where he became a crowd favourite with a fantastic return of 28 goals from 42 appearances in all competitions.
With parent club Wolves relegated to the third tier of English football on the final day of the Championship season, a return there is unlikely for Griffiths, who will want to test himself at the highest level possible.
His interest in a move to Celtic is likely to be high, and Celtic themselves will see him as a perfect, SPL-proven replacement for 29-goal (in all competitions) striker Gary Hooper, who has Liverpool's attention, according to CaughtOffside.