When both the manager and the captain claim the squad lack the “quality” needed to succeed in European competition, we think only one thing: “awkward.” Although the statements from Brendan Rodgers and Callum McGregor in the aftermath of the Hoops’ inglorious exit from the Champions’ League Tuesday in Rome are certainly accurate, they implicitly throw the first team under the (Parks of Hamilton) bus.
The Full Scottish
Yes, Celtic could clearly use upgrades at several key positions—preferably with players experienced on the European stage—to advance out of the group next term. However, this also implies that those currently occupying some spots simply aren’t up to snuff.
It makes sense to talk about the need to add “quality,” but that also means that at least a few of those you share the pre-match huddle with week in and week out will need to be shown the door.
If you’re not careful, you could have the very same players you rely on domestically looking over their respective shoulders and contemplating exit strategies just as the Premiership title race heats up.
“We need to add quality,” Rodgers told the press in the aftermath of the 2-0 defeat at Lazio. “That’s the glaring thing that stands out. This group has shown they can compete in some games, but what makes the difference is genuine quality.”
McGregor later added that the failure in the Champions League “isn’t a big surprise” given the club’s emphasis on “signing young talent, developing it, and selling it on.” Ouch.
Again, we’re not arguing the point. It’s demonstrably true. However, Rodgers and McGregor—and anyone else in a position of power and influence at Parkhead—need to walk a fine line here. Players require confidence and support to develop and grow; faulting their ability, as opposed to their inexperience, could be enough to hinder that process.
What’s Next For Celtic?
The good news for Celtic supporters embarrassed by the club’s performance in Europe this season (we’re not among them) is that Rodgers is confident he will have the support of the board in adding the quality he believes is needed.
“The next step is the European side and that’s why I came back, to hopefully be able to fulfil that in my time here,” he told the press Friday. “There’s no doubt now that, one, the squad will come down in numbers and obviously we need to add quality. We don’t need quantity of players; you need quality and that’s how you improve.”
Still, this is apples and oranges compared with Celtic’s competitors in Europe—think £9 million for Odsonne Edouard, rather than £90 million for, say, Antoine Griezmann.
Said Rodgers, “We have got young talents here that will develop and grow and that’s the model of the club, but of course, to continue to improve and grow you need to also have players who are established because they help bring those players up.”
Here’s hoping that’s what they do.