We covered reports last week that Celtic were planning to release Jonny Hayes, amid claims that Preston may be interested.

The Irishman is out of contract this summer, and with the Scottish season settled, the Bhoys can already start to look towards next season.

Hayes took to Instagram on Friday night to post an emotional message that looked an awful lot like a goodbye.

“From the lows of breaking a leg to the highs of winning a treble, the last 3 years have been an enjoyable journey, in which I’ve worked under some terrific staff and shared a dressing room with some unbelievable guys!” said Hayes. “Football at times brings tough decisions, so I’d like to thank you for all the support received along the way! Stay safe everyone!” he added.

Celtic have this evening confirmed that he will be leaving the club.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – OCTOBER 23: Jonny Hayes of Celtic is seen during a training session at Lennoxtown Training Session on October 23, 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Hayes is heading out of Celtic, and reports are already emerging about a potential move. The Daily Mail claim that Preston and Stoke City are leading the race for his signature.

Their report claims that Alex Neil is a big fan of Hayes, and he will fit into North End’s budget given that he is a free agent. The global pandemic will have understandably hit Preston financially, so a freebie like Hayes could make sense.

This isn’t even the first link. The Daily Express (June 22, 2018, p58) claimed that Preston wanted Hayes before eventually signing Brandon Barker, whilst the Daily Record noted in December that North End were keen.

Celtic’s Irish midfielder Jonny Hayes gestures during the Europa League last 32 first leg football match between FC Copenhagen and Celtic in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 20, 2020. (Photo by Niels Christian Vilmann / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP) / Denmark OUT (Photo by NIELS CHRISTIAN VILMANN/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

This is now the third time Neil has been linked with signing Hayes. It’s either a case of no smoke without fire, or an agent repeatedly putting Preston’s name into the mix.

Hayes turns 33 this summer, so he doesn’t necessarily fit the age profile Preston tend to go for. However, he does offer valuable experience and versatility. He can play at left back or on the left of midfield, which could be hugely appealing, whilst he is a natural left footer; Preston don’t have many of them.

On a free transfer, the Irishman may well make sense for Preston. Links with North End just hours after Instagram post may be a little soon, but it’s a rumour that isn’t quite going away yet.

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