Celtic supporters have been drowning their sorrows in the Transfer Tavern in the last few hours after seeing their side go down 7-1 to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday night, thus taking their aggregate score against the French giants to 12-1 in the group stages.
Brendan Rodgers’ men went into their clash at the Parc des Princes having won just one of their opening four European matches, but thus in position to qualify for the Europa League. And their hopes were raised immeasurably when Moussa Dembele gave them a first minute lead, yet all that did was rile the hosts as Unai Emery’s side bagged seven unanswered goals to maintain their position at the top of Group B, and inflict their second drubbing on the Scottish giants following their 5-0 success at Celtic Park back in September.
Thus, there have been many despondent Bhoys fans in the Tavern in the last few hours, yet several of them were realistic about the task on their hands in the French capital last night, and as such aren’t dwelling too much on the defeat, even if it was one of the heaviest losses in this year’s Champions League thus far.
Nonetheless, many are already turning their attentions to this weekend’s Scottish League Cup final against Motherwell, although a recent report from the print edition of L’Equipe (via HITC) has intrigued many of them, what with it detailing that the Bhoys rejected offers from Swansea City and West Ham for Dembele over the summer.
The 21-year-old enjoyed a wonderful first season at Celtic Park by netting 32 goals in just 49 appearances, thus helping Rodgers’ side to the clean sweep of domestic trophies.
And it’s form which reportedly attracted the interest of some Premier League clubs, yet Celtic’s ability to fend off top-flight interest in their prized asset clearly underlines how far they have come under Rodgers, and how much further they have to go.
In the past, the Bhoys may well have baulked and let their star players leave the club – look at what happened to Victor Wanyama, Virgil van Dijk, Fraser Forster, and Gary Hooper, to name but a few, following their impressive campaigns for the club.
And that was a sign of where the Scottish giants were at the time, as although they were comfortably winning the league, they weren’t going on 64-match unbeaten domestic runs and sweeping aside all that came before them, not to mention making strides on the European stage.
But things are different now. If Scottish football was so easy, why has it taken 100 years to break a 62-match unbeaten run? As such, Rodgers deserves immense credit for taking them up another level.
And that could well have played a part in their decision to keep Dembele. The Frenchman was outstanding last term and could well have fetched a sizable sum of money, and perhaps gone to either Swansea or West Ham, where football week in week out is likely to be more competitive.
Yet the Bhoys clearly felt that they could retain the 21-year-old in a bid to meet their own expectations for the current campaign, whether that is to make strides in Europe or remain unbeaten domestically and thus retain all three trophies – they are well on their way to achieving those goals.
Yes, Wednesday’s 7-1 thumping at PSG underlines how far away they are from Europe’s elite, but Celtic won’t be and haven’t been the only side thrashed at the Parc des Princes this term. And in the greater scheme of things, that shouldn’t detract from the immense progress made under Rodgers.
And retaining players like Dembele, despite Premier League interest which they have often baulked at in the past, further emphasises the strides made under the former Liverpool chief, and indeed the aspirations they have as a club going forward in the next few years.
Celtic fans… what do you think? Let us know!
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