Moussa Dembele completed his £20million move to Lyon on Friday night after Celtic deemed their relationship with the striker to be irreparable.
On a day of high drama, the 22-year-old was escorted off the training ground at Lennoxtown after 20 minutes by manager Brendan Rodgers for downing tools – the morning after taking to social media to vent his spleen against the club’s hierarchy for failing to sanction his transfer.
Speaking at lunchtime, the Celtic manager all but closed the door on Dembele’s exit in this window on account of the fact no suitable replacement had been lined up.
Matters moved apace later in the day, though, after Celtic reluctantly accepted Lyon’s offer, thus allowing the former Paris Saint-Germain and Fulham player to return to France on a five-year deal.
In a statement released last night, the deal was confirmed, with Rodgers saying: ‘Every decision we make at Celtic will always be in the best interests of the club and our supporters.
‘It is vital to make clear that we have never promised any player that he can leave the club at a particular time. It has never happened. In fact, we have said all along that we did not wish to sell Moussa, given the circumstances within the transfer window and that is why we rejected a significant offer.
‘However, this particular decision to accept this offer has been taken in order to serve the best interests of the first-team squad, my coaching team and the culture and environment we have created in these last two seasons. The board and myself are united and they have been very supportive to me on this issue.
‘Our real focus now turns to Sunday’s match and beyond, working with our players here who are committed to doing all they can to ensure another successful season for the club.
‘Finally, I would like to thank Moussa for his contribution in our last two seasons and want to wish him well in his new adventure at Lyon.’
There were also rumours of a late move from Villarreal for Dedryck Boyata, which failed to materialise. The Belgian remains a Celtic player and Sportsmail understands the defender now plans to run down his contract and leave Celtic for nothing next summer.
The loss of the talismanic Dembele on the eve of the first Old Firm game of the season comes as a hammer blow to the Scottish champions.
The scorer of 53 goals in green and white, including seven against Rangers, the striker wouldn’t have played against the Ibrox club on Sunday even had the Lyon move not gone through due to his fragile mental state.
With transfer speculation reaching fever pitch, Rodgers took him out of the squad which beat Suduva on Thursday – only to be alerted to Dembele’s extraordinary attacks on the club on social media the following morning.
Dembele tweeted: ‘A man without his word is nothing. A real man keeps his word.’ He then took further aim at his employers, writing: ‘Don’t get it wrong Bhoys and Ghirls nothing to do with people who really care about the club. Too much love and respect for you and the crest #CarefulWhoYouCallTheLeaderOfYours.’
Dembele had also ‘liked’ several posts which supported his stance and criticised Celtic – including one which claimed Rodgers had suggested in January that he move to Brighton as Celtic wasn’t big enough for him.
But, earlier in the day, Rodgers fired back and said: ‘I am a Celtic supporter and as Celtic manager am I going to tell someone to go to Brighton because they are a bigger club? It is understandable as a tactic. I have seen it before.’
Speaking before Celtic belatedly sanctioned the move, Rodgers confirmed the club would consider disciplinary action against the player over his conduct.
‘It is absolutely something we would look at internally, yes, because it is not acceptable,’ he said. ‘I have spoken with the club on that. It is not how this group of players works.’
Asked about Dembele’s attitude in training, where he deliberately ran behind the rest of the group, Rodgers said: ‘He came in to report to work with his team-mates and clearly wasn’t up to the expectations we meet for training. It is best not to work if he is still not quite right. It was best for him to get in.’
Rodgers remained sympathetic to the player’s desire to play on a bigger stage but he took exception to the suggestion Celtic had reneged on an agreement by showing a reluctance to sell the player after two years.
‘When Moussa came in here, like a number of the players, he signed for four years,’ Rodgers said. ‘And really looking at it, there was never a promise or anything like that made. You can’t do that.
‘If you are planning and trying to map out a career going forward then you are looking at a couple of years and that has normally been the timescale around other players who have been here and then moved on. But it has to be in the best interests of the club. You have to weigh all of that up.’
The Dembele saga bookmarked a stormy transfer window for Celtic in which they failed to land John McGinn and Rodgers voiced his frustration at failing to nail down other top targets.
Despite also agitating for a move after Fulham had an £9m offer rejected, Boyata is set to remain a Celtic player until the summer as he winds his contract down.
The Belgian international sat out four games alleging he was physically and mentally unfit but has since returned to the fold and scored the winning goal against Hamilton last Sunday.
Scouring the market for another defensive option, Celtic finally secured a one-year loan deal for Leicester City’s £13m centre back Filip Benkovic on Friday.
They also completed the signing of former Kilmarnock midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu on a two-year deal.