Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, has challenged Ryan Christie to sustain his recent form as talks between the Scotland internationalist and the Parkhead side continue over a new deal.

The 25-year-old has another 18 months to run on his current contract but there has been speculation around his long-term future at the club with Nice, Burnley and Newcastle all believed to have watched Christie over the last season.  Aware that a move elsewhere would hold an appeal, Lennon’s main concern at the minute is that Christie’s influence in the Parkhead side is maintained.

"Talks are ongoing between the club and his representatives,” said Lennon. “He has also said he would like a different challenge at some stage in his career. Currently, I think he still has a lot to do and prove here at Celtic and to be fair to him he's worked really hard the last few games.

“There's been no agitation or dropping off in his intensity level. He's just like the rest, a little bit inconsistent at times but we understand that. I was delighted with his form going into the international break and he carried that on.”

Striker Albian Ajeti was one of the few who remained at Lennoxtown as the majority of Celtic’s players headed off on international duty. The 23-year-old forward has been capped 10 times for his country but had to prioritise getting up to speed domestically meaning he missed a friendly against Belgium and the Nations League game against Spain. 

Switzerland’s game against Ukraine was called off after six positive Covid tests were recorded from Ukraine.

The Swiss will be at this summer’s European Championships after they were drawn in Group A with Turkey, Italy and Wales with Ajeti confident of joining his Scottish team-mates at the tournament.

“It’s always good to have all the players back in training and we’re highly motivated for these important games,” he said. “I stayed at home during the international break and had some hard training days with the fitness coach and the other players. 

“I was working specifically on my fitness because I started well when I came to Celtic but I was out for a couple of weeks with an injury.   I came back but still lacked a bit of fitness so I had time to work on that. The 100 per cent fitness will come with each game but I’m feeling well. 

“I’m very happy with the start to my career at Celtic but I want to help the team get better and the main target is to win game by game. 

“I have been struggling with my fitness but I think if I am playing regularly and I keep doing my things that I will be back into the national team and be an important player there.”

There is coemption for spaces at Celtic with Odsonne Edouard, Ajeti, Leigh Griffiths and Patryk Klimala all vying for a starting jersey. Ajetic, though, has no qualms about having to fight to prove his worth and insists that it can bring out the best in the forwards.

“That is always good to have competition,” he said. “We have a good relationship together and this is the only way you can get better. I really like all of them but I am happy with whoever scores to help the team because this is all that matters.

“We have been playing with two strikers or with one striker and we have been winning with two or with one – that is the only important thing, that we win. It doesn’t matter how we are playing or who is playing, the team is the focus for all of us.”

Lennon remains confident that Ajeti will make a telling contribution to Celtic over the course of the campaign.

"He's been a big player already this season, he's had some fitness issues but he's had a really good two weeks with the likes of Diego Laxalt and Christopher Jullien, Scott Brown, Jeremie Frimpong and Olivier Ntcham and he's looking a lot sharper,” said Lennon. “I am hoping he will contribute immensely until the end of the year and we can take stock of things then."