I’ve had a few different posts in mind for a while now but never actually got round to writing them. However, Tuesday night’s ‘disaster’ in Malmo, might just be the catalyst to bring together a few of the main points of these unwritten posts in one place.
The main crux of this post is that Tuesday night should be used as a wake up call for the club and its fans that Celtic are no longer a Champions League club. As hard as that may be to digest, we simply do not belong at, nor do we deserve to feast at, European Football’s top table, at least for the time being. But that may not necessarily be a bad thing. A simple means of justifying that statement is to look at our failed qualifying attempt which saw us narrowly beat a Qarabaq side ranked 143rd in Europe before bowing out to Malmo, ranked 99th. While these rankings may not always truly reflect a clubs true capabilities, Celtic are ranked 46th best in Europe and therefore logic should dictate that we are good enough to comfortably beat both teams. That we failed to do so suggests we are not at Champions League level. Furthermore, after last season’s calamitous
I’ve had several posts brewing in my mind for a while now but never quite found the time to write them. However, Tuesday night’s ‘disaster’ in Malmo seems to be an appropriate catalyst to try and put some of those thoughts down on paper in one post. It will probably end up as an incoherent mess, but then again isn’t that how most of my other posts turn out?
Anyway to get right to the main point of this post, Celtic are not a Champions League team and Tuesday has done us a favour. Controversial eh?
The rationale behind this bold statement; we made a bit of meal out of beating Qarabaq, a team ranked 143rd in Europe, before losing to Malmo, ranked 99th in Europe by Uefa. Both clubs are ranked well below Celtic, and while I concede that ranking systems do not always indicate a club’s true level of ability, it would suggest that Celtic should have been able to comfortably defeat both Qarabaq and Malmo, and ultimately qualify for the Champions League. That we could not achieve this, for whatever reason, suggests that the current Celtic team is not a Champions League level team.
Given that we only just scraped through the Europa League group stage last season, this revelation should not come as much of a surprise. Even less so considering that our summer signings have hardly strengthened the squad. Our current European level is therefore Europa League group stage.
So how can missing out on the Champions League, the glamour games, the prestige, and the money be a good thing? Well, the way I see it, it’s got to acts as a reality check for the club, fans included. We dream of the Champions League like it is the holy grail of football, yet we have zero chance of winning it. The best we can hope for is to somehow scrape second place in the group – which would require a hell of a lot of luck, and a lot more gritty performances than this team seems capable of putting in. In reality, if we were to qualify for the Champions League, we would realistically be looking to avoid finishing bottom of the group and therefore drop into the Europa League knock-out stage. Which, funnily enough, is the same target we have when entering the Europa League group stage.
Financially the club benefits from playing in the Champions League, to the tune of approximately £21 million. Not money to be sniffed at. However, as very little of that money is reinvested in improving the quality of the playing staff, then where is the actual benefit in having that extra money? The failure to reinvest is where Celtic also fall down on wanting to be considered a Champions League club. Most smaller European clubs similar to Celtic accept that they will lose their best players year on year. They plan for this and have replacements lined up in advance knowing that they will have a sizeable transfer fee from the sale of said star player to spend. If they are a Champions League club, they also have the additional Champions League money to invest in improving the squad, and on the whole, that’s exactly what they do. At Celtic however the story is somewhat different. There seems to be very little forward thinking in terms of player acquisitions. Celtic have repeatedly sold their best players on a yearly basis, making tidy profits along the way, however the signing of adequate replacements has been sorely lacking. Also, the timing of sales and purchases has been damaging to the progress of the team. Take Virgil Van Dijk as a prime example. It has been widely expected that VvD will leave the club this summer, regardless of whether Champions League football was achieved or not. The player appears to want to move on and challenge himself at a higher level than Celtic can offer on a weekly basis. Knowing this, it would surely make sense to cash in at the start of the summer and spend decent money on a quality replacement allowing the club to plan and prepare properly for the season ahead with a settled defence. Having already lost one centre half in Jason Denayer, surely to goodness this was an area of the team we would like to sort out ASAP? Instead, we are now entering the final few days of the fabled transfer window with major uncertainty over who will be make up our centre back pairing for the rest of the season. VvD is a stick on to leave now and the most recent reports have us linked with Tyler Blackett from Manchester United as a replacement -on loan. At what level does this seem like good business for developing the football club? At board level, where the interest is solely in boosting financial output, seemingly at the expense of improving footballing quality. Sorry for answering that rhetorical question. Anyway, the point of that rant; Celtic’s failure to act quickly and properly in the transfer market marks us out as amateurish and not Champions League level.
So yeah, where’s ‘good’ from Tuesday night?
Well, there’s the reality check that we’re not as good as we like to think we are; hopefully this will lead to a re-focussing of minds at the club. The Europa League is closer to our European level than the Champions League; we may actually be able to compete here. We will still be receiving shed loads more in European money than any other club in Scotland this season. And, surely to goodness, another year of failing to make the Champions League will make the money men at the club sit up and take notice that cutting corners on squad improvement does not make a Champions League team.
Tuesday night was shit, it was a major low point, a kick in the balls. But if we don’t want to repeat that again next year we take it on the chin and learn from our mistakes. If we continue down the current path of consistent downsizing then Celtic Football Club will never ‘belong’ at the top table again. We can’t continue to do the same things and expect different results, so come on Celtic show the fans some commitment to investing properly in improving the playing squad to a level that matches the club’s aspirations. I just hope our aspirations haven’t dropped so far that we are already doing that…..
Thoughts on this garbled nonsense are welcome.