Veteran Romanian manager Eugen Neagoe believes that Celtic are the weakest of all of the teams Cluj could’ve drawn in Champions League qualifying.
The Scottish champions will face either Ferencvaros or Djugardens should they overcome KR Reykjavik in the first qualifying round of Europe’s elite club competition. Cluj, meanwhile, have been drawn against Dinamo Zagreb so long as they see off Floriana of Malta.
It meant that Celtic avoided yet another rematch with the Romanian champions after some fierce battles last season. Dan Petrescu’s outfit knocked the Hoops out of the Champions League qualifiers 12 months ago, before Celtic toppled them in the Europa League group stage later that year.
Both sides could still meet in Europe this season. However, Neagoe, speaking to Romanian outlet Pro Sport, believes Cluj drew the short end of the stick by being stuck with Zagreb.
“Even if Dan Petrescu says that it will be difficult against Floriana, I think it will be very easy for CFR to progress in the first preliminary round. There is no question about that.
“In terms of the situation (for the second round), Celtic is far above CFR (in terms of quality). But CFR has proven to be a valuable team and a strong team, and it’s no coincidence that they have progressed. I think CFR can go further in Europe this year.
“Dinamo Zagreb and Young Boys are more dangerous than Celtic in my view. It wouldn’t be a disaster if Cluj didn’t qualify.”
Where do we truly rank in terms of our reputation?
Officially, Celtic sit as the 46th highest ranked club in European football (UEFA). However, Neagoe’s opinion here is a good example of where we sit in terms of our general reputation.
Out of Young Boys, Celtic, and Zagreb, the Hoops sit the highest in the official rankings. Zagreb sit just two places behind despite qualifying for last season’s UEFA Champions League. Young Boys, meanwhile, sit 16 spots below the Hoops as the 62nd highest-ranked side.
There is an argument to say that Zagreb are the strongest side Cluj could’ve faced given their run to the Champions League group stages just last year. They even gave Atalanta a 4-0 doing too as they competed at the top table for the first time in three years.
As for Young Boys, however, you can’t claim they’re a better side than Celtic regardless of how you say it. They’ve only reached the Champions League groups once in their entire history. In fact, they haven’t reached the latter stages of European competition since 2015. Where’s the basis to say they’re currently stronger than us?
Celtic have now made the last-32 of the Europa League in each of our last three seasons. You wonder, then, whether the league we play in still holds us down in the eyes of some.
Regardless, hopefully we can prove Neagoe and those like him wrong this season. After all, it’s our reputation across Europe that will ultimately help make Celtic bigger.
In other news, Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson revisited Celtic’s failed pursuit of Lee Tomlin back in 2013.