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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 January, 2004, 15:24 GMT
Newcastle want Larsson
Henrik Larsson (right) has had much to celebrate at Celtic
Henrik Larsson (right) is still a lethal striker at 33 years old
Newcastle United have confirmed that they have joined the race to sign Celtic's Henrik Larsson at the end of the season.

The former Sweden striker is leaving Celtic Park after seven successful years in Glasgow and Spain and the Middle East have been suggested as possible destinations.

But Newcastle boss Bobby Robson said: "Larsson is someone who could play alongside Alan Shearer - I've no doubt about that."

Celtic's Martin O'Neill has given up hope of persuading Larsson to extend his stay in Scotland.

Instead, he has been expressing his hope that his board will give him the cash necessary to replace the man who has probably been his most important player, both domestically and in European competition, during his time as manager.

I think it would be fair to compare Henrik leaving with Eric Cantona retiring from Manchester United
Celtic boss Martin O'Neill
Robson recognises such quality and said: "Henrik Larsson may be approaching 33 and has been playing easy football in Scotland, but when it comes to European football, he has show he is still a class act.

"I understand he is not available until the end of the season as Celtic are still involved in Europe and will not let him go, so we will forget all about Larsson until the transfer window opens again in the summer.

"He is a player we have continually had watched and we will know about any move when he finally becomes available on the open market."

Larsson has also been linked with Barcelona, while new speculation has linked striker partner Chris Sutton, whose contract ends in 18 months, with a bid from Middlesbrough.

O'Neill is unlikely to accept losing both of his long-serving strikers, despite Sutton now being 30.

"It is part of a manager's job that you have to try to replace great players when they leave," said the Celtic boss.

"I think it would be fair in all areas to compare Henrik leaving with Eric Cantona retiring from Manchester United.

"I'm quite sure that was a massive body blow to Alex Ferguson, but suddenly some of the younger players collectively performed miracles for the club.

"I'm sure the board would consider favourably any thoughts we have on attempting to bring in a 30-goals-a-season player."

Celtic's third main striker, John Hartson, also has 18 months of his current contract to run and, despite rumours that he may wish a return to the Premiership, he has now been quoted as saying that he would like to extend his stay at Celtic Park.

Birmingham City have been linked with interest in Hartson, as well as Larsson.






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