CELTIC are believed to have set their sights on Charlie Austin as a replacement for Premier League target Gary Hooper.
The Scottish Premier League champions are braced for losing their top scorer in the January transfer window, with Norwich City said to be ready to offer £6million for the former Scunthorpe United striker, who turns 25 at the weekend.
The Canaries have already had a £5m bid knocked back by the SPL leaders, who have valued him at £8m.
The pricetag is unlikely to be met. But with the Hoops still resigned to losing Hooper this month, they are in the market for a new striker, and Austin would fit the bill.
Hooper took his tally for the season to 20 goals, in 30 games, with a brace in Celtic’s 4-1 win over Hearts on Saturday.
Austin has an even more impressive strike rate this season, with 23 goals from the 27 games he played before pulling up with a hamstring injury in the early stages of the home defeat to Leicester City last month.
He is set to make his comeback from that in Saturday’s home game against Birmingham City, and Burnley are hoping to have him available for at least the rest of the season.
The Clarets board are adamant they do not need to sell in January and are determined to keep hold of their prized asset beyond the transfer window.
With 18 months left to run on his contract, there has also been talk of a new deal for the striker, with tentative early discussions having already taken place.
As Austin has already attracted interest from a number of Premier League clubs, including Newcastle United and Arsenal, it is debatable how successful those negotiations might be.
But Burnley are at least determined to get through this month with their squad in tact, after climbing to seventh place following Saturday’s impressive 2-0 win at Millwall.
Celtic may not give up easily on Austin, though, who shares a number of similarities with Hooper.
Both started out in non-league before earning their Football League break – Hooper with Grays Athletic, while Austin was prolific for Poole Town.
Hooper moved to Southend and had loan spells at Leyton Orient and Hereford before making a £175,000 move to Scunthorpe in the summer of 2008.
He joined Celtic two years later, and has gone on to score 55 goals in 81 league appearances.
After joining Swindon in the summer of 2009, following a trial with Bournemouth, Austin scored 32 goals in 57 league games, earning him a move to Burnley as Eddie Howe’s first signing at Turf Moor two years ago.
The 23-year-old has 40 goals from 77 league and cup games for the Clarets.