The season may only have ended, but blink and Celtic will be back participating in the Champions League qualifiers once again.
When they come around, they’re often billed as our biggest games of the season. No wonder either. Qualification for the biggest club competition in world football banked clubs a reported €15million [£12.9m] this year [City A.M]. Each win would then secure €2.7m [£2.3m] for each individual club. In short, it’s where the big money lies.
That kind of finance can do plenty for the club, particularly in the transfer window. Given the rebuild needed at Celtic will likely take more than one window to complete, these fixtures are even more important. And the difficulty level will go up too.
For the first time in 10 years, Celtic will have to try and qualify via the league path. This could mean we come up against better sides as the qualifying goes on, making the route much trickier.
And that makes our squad selection for these matches absolutely vital. It’s of incredible importance that all Celtic players selected to feature in their Champions League qualifiers this summer are fully committed to the club.
There has been speculation over a host of players in the closing weeks of the season. Odsonne Edouard, for example, stepped up his plans to leave when he changed his agency ahead of the summer [Glasgow Times]. Kris Ajer is another who seemingly wants away. The Scottish Daily Mail [print edition, 29/04, back page] reported that the big Norwegian is eyeing a move to Newcastle.
Celtic wantaways can go immediately, Champions League qualifiers demands 100%
They’re not the only two either. Ryan Christie is also said to be ready to move on with his contract reportedly up in January [Scottish Daily Mail, print edition, 04/05, back page]. Olivier Ntcham will be back this summer too with major question marks over his attitude towards Scottish football.
It’s absolutely critical that none of these players participate in our European ventures then this season. If all of them are eyeing up summer departures, Celtic shouldn’t bother risking it. Especially for those who will leave regardless of whether we qualify or not.
Are they really going to give the club everything they can with a potential move on the line? Will Edouard give it 100% knowing a bad injury could seriously affect his chances of a big-money switch? The same goes for all of these players.
The new manager needs his players’ focus to be on nothing but ensuring we qualify for Europe’s elite competition. We can’t individuals worried that they might pick up a knock because they’re scheduled to meet with AC Milan the next day. These things matter, and that’s why this idea that we should try and keep our wantaways on a bit longer for the qualifiers is counter-productive.
It’s not worth the risk. Start the rebuild. Get players in for those positions, and let those who are fully committed to the club tackle our big European challenge. If they fail? At least they’re staying here to develop and not leaving the club short.