NEIL LENNON today offered some much-needed Christmas cheer to struggling loan striker Miku.
Speculation has been mounting once again that the Venezuelan is about to have his year-long contract terminated early, with a return to Spanish club Getafe on the cards when the transfer window opens next week.
Miku's absence from the team when Celtic crushed Ross County 4-0 was seen as a further indication that he was regarded as surplus to requirements.
But boss Lennon explained that the man who has scored just one goal – in last month's 2-2 draw against Dundee United at Tannadice – in his 11 appearances since arriving in August, has been allowed special leave to return to Venezuela for personal reasons.
And not only does Lennon expect he will be back training with his team-mates at Lennoxtown today, but believes he can still make a big impact and prove a valuable addition to the squad.
The Hoops boss does admit that, with Mo Bangura back from his loan at AIK in Sweden, and Anthony Stokes fast approaching a return to action after being out since August with an ankle injury, he is top-heavy with strikers.
This may lead to at least one being allowed to leave in the next window, though Lennon is adamant it will not be top gun Gary Hooper, who now has QPR added to the list of clubs tracking him.
Although much less successful, and at times looking like a forlorn figure, Miku is another Lennon does not want to lose – although Gulf state clubs are said to be interested in the player.
And the hope is that, having been allowed to make a quick visit to his homeland, it will be considered a fresh start in a new year for the 27-year-old.
Lennon said: "Miku has a few personal issues to deal with back in Venezuela, so we gave him the time off. But he should be back in today.
"It's a year-long loan deal and I want him to succeed here. He wants to succeed, too, so he is very much part of it still."
Miku may even figure at Dens Park on Boxing Day, and Lennon is hopeful that full-backs Mikael Lustig and Adam Matthews will also be available for selection again after being ruled out at the weekend.
The manager explained: "Mikael has got an ongoing hip problem, and it was a little bit tight on Friday. Adam yanked his ankle.
"But they are minor worries and they should both be okay for either the game against Dundee or the match against Hibs at the weekend."
Meanwhile, despite struggling to make any kind of impact with Celtic since joining the club 12 months ago, Rabiu Ibrahim has won a recall to the Nigeria squad for the African Cup of Nations, which takes place in South Africa next month.
As expected, Efe Ambrose is also listed in the provisional 32-man squad, which will be reduced to 23 on January 9.