“I’m here again to win… and to look to see if we can do something in Europe.”

Those were the words of Brendan Rodgers in June as he was unveiled as the Celtic manager for the second time at a press conference.

However, following the club’s Scottish League Cup exit to Kilmarnock, and a transfer window that has seen first-team players such as Jota and Carl Starfelt head for the Parkhead exit, the question arises: just how ready are Celtic to make an impact in Europe?

celtic top

Eyes will be fixed on the Champions League group stage draw in Monaco next week. But rather than feeling optimism about the club’s European campaign, Celtic fans could be forgiven for dreading the prospect of this injury-ravaged side lining up against the best the continent has to offer.

Brendan Rodgers
REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Despite the clamour for European progression being a priority for the club, and word that Rodgers was sitting on the biggest transfer budget the club has enjoyed in recent memory, it beggars belief that the squad is already weaker than last season when we picked up just 2 points from our Champions League exploits.

Even before Jota’s £25 million move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad, there was an expectation that the club would really push on this summer to cement its domestic dominance and make inroads in European competitions. There was even talk of breaking our transfer record; with the window closing next week, that now seems impossible.

So, where are the signings?

With the exception of Maik Nawroski and Gustaf Lagerbielke, the majority of the club’s signings have been made on potential alone, with no real expectation that they would be first-team starters. Even in Lagerbielke’s case, he will be demoted to the Parkhead bench as soon as Cameron Carter-Vickers returns from injury. Every signing has been under 23 and clearly acquired with a view to the future.

It is evident that the club requires a new number one goalkeeper. Joe Hart has been a great servant to the club for the past two seasons and is a key figure to remain within the dressing room, but the 36-year-old is coming towards the end of his career, and it’s time he was moved to back-up to deputise for a younger and higher-quality goalkeeper. Earlier in the window, Celtic were linked with Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, yet nothing has transpired with the Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper now set to join Fenerbahce. Some journalists have speculated that the Board is refusing to sign a goalkeeper until one of Hart, Benjamin Siegrist, and Scott Bain exits the club, but given we have already moved on Vasillis Barkas and Conor Hazard, the refusal to sign a new goalkeeper is inexcusable.

Jota Celtic
Soccer Football – Scottish Premiership – Celtic v Heart of Midlothian – Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain – March 8, 2023 Celtic’s Jota in action with Heart of Midlothian’s Kye Rowles Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

Just as bewildering has been the refusal to even try to replace a player of Jota’s quality. Of course, it’s extremely unlikely we’ll find a player as good as the Portuguese winger; after all, that’s why he commanded a £25 million fee. But with just days left of the window, the lack of creativity in our wide positions is an alarming concern. Daizen Maeda has excellent pace and determination to be dangerous on the counter-attack or act as an outlet when we need someone to get us up the park, but he is unable to take on a man and fashion chances from nothing the way Jota did. As for Liel Abada, he is great at getting into goal-scoring positions from out wide, but again, in terms of providing that creative spark, he is not on Jota’s level.

Another area of concern is right-back. While Alistair Johnson has been sensational since his move to Celtic from the MLS in January, when he is injured, the drop-off in quality is evident; it’s something we may be able to get away with in the Scottish Premiership, but strength in depth is crucial to having any hopes whatsoever of remaining in European competition past Christmas.

Even if Celtic had cruised past Kilmarnock in the League Cup, the stark facts about an underwhelming transfer window would have eventually been laid bare sooner or later.

It’s clear that the transition to Brendan Rodgers’ way of playing is going to take a little bit of time, given how ingrained Ange Postecoglou’s style of play was among the squad. But it’s only right that when the club is sitting in perhaps its best financial position ever, the manager is backed in the transfer market to make that transition easier, with the club remaining successful domestically and on the European stage.

Since January, we have lost Giakoumakis, Juranovic, Jota, and Starfelt. That’s four players of real quality, and it is patently obvious that the Board has been asleep at the wheel. Unless they wake up and make three or four quality signings before next week’s deadline, then Rodgers’ ambitions of European progression will remain a pipe dream.

5 COMMENTS

  1. They can shove their Champions League package up their ronson if there aren’t significant moves in the transfer market.
    If they don’t give a rat’s ass about Europe then l’m sure as he’ll not gonna sponsor them with my hard earned.
    Over £100 to sit and watch us getting gubbed by all comers,no thanks !
    Starve these parasites out !!

  2. Push on this year! We brought back Peter Lawell to do the exact opposite, to drag his heels on signings, piss people off and not sign players that Rodgers wants.

    Case in point John McGinn, what a player he is and Pete the plonker wouldn’t pay the money leading to Rodgers eventually leaving!

  3. Keeper we had Hazard who at 24 already won league cup with Celtic then title in Iceland so for young Scottish keeper plenty of experience should have been Nmbr1 instead of Hart but was let go!! Neither current l/bs are of International class standard…so bring back Tierney ( Show Ambition ) Johnston is Quality but needs Class back-up if NY has trouble at Union bring him back ( Probably Loan there but why Not ) Midfield -Sad to say McGregor needs a break he plays every game with hoops + Scotland for last 3/4yrs c’mon give the guy a break!! Up front we’re an injury away from a Full-Blown Crisis if Kyogo gets injured for any length of time…He needs help!! None of Our Signings has been the Manger’s which says it All..PL is back & penny pinching is back in house!! DD has made it clear he Has No Attachment to Deltas a Fan…it’s Just a Business to him Unless we where playing in EPL which will never happen tut tut! Forget Europe Competition I just want to Win Our Scottish Title…but if We don’t Board should GO …but won’t!!

  4. There is no question in my mind now that Peter Lawwell is behind this failure to replace quality with quality. That man should never have been allowed back into Celtic park and yet there he is, cocky as you like, pulling the strings again and destroying what the club has built over the past 2-3 years. The strings he’s pulling are the purse strings and he’s pulling them shut very tightly. I’m sure he has big personal and shareholder profits on his mind! It could also be that he’s trying to drive Rodgers out of Parkhead. It is said they don’t get on, so maybe he’s trying to starve the manager out knowing that failure on the park will automatically result in Rodgers being sacked or walikng away again. They need to get rid of Lawwell very quickly or it will be downhill from here on in.

  5. I am dreading this upcoming CL games ,the way this team and manager is I think we will beat SEVCOs record of being worst team ever in CL,it doesn’t auger well for us now that liewell is back in charge of everything.

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