Football

How Celtic Can Rejoin Europe’s Elite

Celtic F.C. has a long and storied history of success, both at home and in Europe. The club holds the record of being the first British club, and the first club from outside Spain, Italy, and Portugal, to win the European Cup. This historic feat was achieved in the 1966/67 season when the club played some of its best football en route to besting Inter Milan in the final.

Diminishing Returns

Over the years, however, success in Europe has been harder and harder to come by. The club’s dominance of the domestic league has not yet translated into European success. Indeed, in recent times, the Parkhead club has been forced to settle for early exits in the Champions League, and limited runs in the Europa League. Such was also their fate this season. The Bhoys won only one in six Champions League games — a 3-0 away win against Belgian champions, RSC Anderlecht — and was deservedly dumped out of the competition at the group stage.

The Celts qualified for the Europa League by virtue of a superior goal difference to Anderlecht. This was after losing their final group game 0-1 at home to the Belgian outfit. The club was subsequently bundled out of the competition in the round of 32 losing 3-0 away to Zenit after having beaten the Russian club 1-0 at home in the first leg.

Celtic’s European form has been dismal of late and there seems to be no sign that will change anytime soon.

A Limited Strategy

It can be argued that the Celts do not have the financial muscle to go toe to toe with Europe’s elite. But a change in strategy can be all that is required to change the status quo. Success in Europe for a club that has become accustomed to dominance domestically will require a shift in focus. This has been proven elsewhere, and it has worked in other climes.

Celtic can look at three clubs that have remained competitive in Europe in recent seasons even without splashing the cash. These three examples are Borussia Dortmund, Shakhtar Donetsk, Monaco, Porto and even Atletico Madrid. It could be argued that none of these sides has been consistently dominant in Europe like the big money spenders. But that’s not the issue here. The point is, despite their meager resources, these sides have competed and not been simply swept aside. They have gone toe to toe with Europe’s elite and held their heads high. Porto won the Champions League in 2004, and the Europa League in 2003 and 2011 despite having limited resources.

Celtic’s rich history and domestic dominance make it necessary for the club to compete in Europe. The club’s fans deserve to see their club excel among the continent’s elite. Therefore the club needs to adopt a model that can turn its fortunes around.

A Cycle of Growth and Progress

The strategy that has worked best has been to invest in top-class talent and give them a platform to flourish. The Hoops have had firsthand experience of this with players like Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama. But it’s not enough. The club needs to do more in this regard to see substantial results. Investing in upcoming top-class talent and grooming them for success brings tremendous benefits. These players help the club compete at the highest stage as they mature. The ones that move on thereafter bring in the needed resources for reinvestment. It is a cycle of growth and steady progress.

Atletico Madrid won the Europa League in 2010 and 2012 and got to the Champions League final in 2014 and 2016.Borussia Dortmund reached the 2013 final but lost to Bayern Munich. AS Monaco lost in the 2004 final to Porto and was a semi-finalist in the 2016/17 season. And that is besides making huge figures in transfer fees from other top clubs.

It’s a model that works and can place Celtic back at the top table of European football.

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