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HAYES SALUTES ‘IRREPLACEABLE’ CELTIC STAR

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JONNY HAYES reckons Celtic are not the same without Callum McGregor.

The Republic of Ireland international hailed his former team-mate as he prepares for life outside Celtic.

Hayes, 32, left the nine-in-a-row champions at the weekend at the end of his contract following three years at Parkhead after Brendan Rodgers paid Aberdeen £1.3million for the versatile star in June 2017.

The left-sided performer, who won six trophies at the Hoops, selected the Scotland midfielder as a key component in the continued success of Neil Lennon’s side.

Hayes, speaking to the Scottish Sun, said: “Odsonne’s fantastic, but, for me, the consistency shown by Callum McGregor over the last three to four years has been unrivalled.

“He’s played 50/60 games a season at the same level and I can honestly not remember Callum having a bad game. He scores goals, gets assists, he puts his foot in, he’s surprisingly quick, unbelievably fit.

“He ticks every single box for a midfielder and a player.

“Brendan Rodgers told me to watch and learn from Callum. He said he understands the game better than anyone he’d come across over the last 15/20 years.

“You take him out of the Celtic team, you’ll notice.”

Hayes is also backing the team to go on and make history by lifting their 10th crown in a row. And he believes boss Lennon does not have to invade the transfer market to strengthen his squad.

He said: “It’s going to be a tough task to stop Celtic given the gulf in financial capabilities between them and Rangers and the club’s been well run for a number of years.

“I’m sure if need be the club could probably go in and spend X amount of millions on players. That’s if they need to. At the minute I don’t think they need to.

“Celtic were 13 points ahead in the season just finished and that gap would only have got bigger until the end of the season.

“That’s how confident we felt in the dressing room at the time, that we wanted to continue playing the games and finish the league winning. We didn’t feel any danger.

“So, it will be a tough task to stop Celtic. I’m talking also about other clubs. The onus isn’t just on Rangers — it’s also on Motherwell, Aberdeen, Hibs etc, to put up more of a fight.

“I think the 10 in a row season will definitely put a bigger target on Celtic’s back.

“But I’ve seen the dressing room and I’m sure Scott Brown will have the boys ready to go and extra-motivated to go and get that achievement.”

The 34-year-old Hoops captain has been an inspiration for Hayes who admitted: “Over the last decade, I’ve tried to get fitter and fitter every season.

“I picked up a bit from Scott Brown. As he gets older, he gets fitter.

“There’s no doubts in my mind whether I could continue playing at a high level. I feel fitter than ever and still feel quick.”

Hayes, who was linked with Preston, Stoke City, Blackburn Rovers and Cardiff City in the January transfer window, revealed he could move outwith the UK to continue his career.

He added: “I’ve had options previously to go abroad. It would have to be a city where my family could settle.

“I’ve always loved Aberdeen. The city alone is brilliant. The wife loved it up there. We’ve always talked about getting a house there when I finish. It’s something I’d definitely look at.

“There have been a couple of conversations about the MLS over the last 18 months.

“There have been approaches every window since I’ve been at Celtic.

“I wouldn’t say that ship’s sailed. It’s something that interests me.

“Lewis Morgan said he loves his life there. Barry Robson also told me he loved the life there.”

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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