Should Gary Hooper leave Celtic for the Premier League?
Manager Neil Lennon is confident the forward will stay despite two January transfer bids from Premiership newboys Norwich City
On the same day Norwich City saw an improved offer for Celtic striker Gary Hooper rejected, reported to be upwards of £5 million, the 24-year-old striker was grabbing all the headlines with a double over Dundee United, moving the Bhoys 12 points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League.
Since moving across the border from Scunthorpe United in 2010 for the small fee of £2.4 million, Hooper has been a revelation in Neil Lennon's side. In two-and-a-half seasons, Hooper has scored 73 goals in 117 total appearances. He was top goalscorer for the club in his first two seasons, winning the SPL Golden Boot last season, as well as featuring in the SPFA SPL Team of the Year in 2010/11 and 2011/12.
Hooper has also been amongst the silverware, winning the Scottish Cup in his first season and the league title last May. He has been integral to Celtic in their Champions League campaign with vital goals against Spartak Moscow, helping the club to record their first ever away victory in the competition, and putting them through to the last round of 16 against Juventus, with the first leg to be played February 12.
However, the interest from England's top division must be an incentive for a player in the prime of his career. And with the penalty-box poacher turning down the club's final offer of a contract extension, it seems Hooper is keen to move back down south. But the question is, should he?
Moving to the Canaries this month would bring the player to a higher standard of football, which would improve Hooper's all-round game. It would also improve his chances of representing his country, with few players outside of England ever called up to the national side.
Though rumours suggested Hooper was set to be involved in the England squad for the friendly against Sweden last Novemeber, it is no secret that English players in Scotland are usually overlooked. So coming up against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City would put Hooper right at the forefront of Roy Hodgson's mind, with important World Cup qualifiers just around the corner.
But then on the other hand, moving from Celtic now would mean the forward would miss out on a few exciting opportunities coming up at the Scottish giants. It would seem, being so far ahead of anyone else in the SPL, that the championship is in the bag. To miss out on the excitement and jubilation that comes with lifting the trophy would be extremely difficult to take, as Hooper has already played such a big part in putting Celtic top of Scotland's top-tier.
And with the club still going strong in both domestic cup competitions, the chance of finishing with a potential treble cannot be easy to walk away from. There is also the two tasty European games against Italian giants Juventus, with Hooper effectively giving up Champions League football for the forseeable future.
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland after Celtic's 4-0 home win against Hearts, manager Neil Lennon said: "It's down to the kid at the end of the day, my advice is always take the money when it's in front of you - you never know what's round the corner in football.
"There could be avenues that open up to him in the summer, but, for now, take the money, enjoy your football and see what the next step round the corner is."
If Hooper signed the new contract on offer to him at Celtic Park, it would mean the forward could see out the rest of the season on a high, with the two European matches as well as a potential treble to call an end to his time in the SPL, and then see what offers come in during the summer.
This would also be beneficial for Celtic as the added experience will only help increase his price-tag to which the club can re-use to strengthen other areas.
The cold, frost-bitten side of mid-table obscurity in England? Or the warm, basking glory of silverware and Europe in Scotland? What would you do?
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