Celtic

Flashback: Lubomir Moravcik’s superb spell at Celtic made initial critics look very foolish

In our latest instalment of the Flashback series, we take a look back at a certain moment and look at how things might have changed those initial reactions.

Last Sunday, Celtic’s official Twitter account @CelticFC noted that it had been 21 years to the day since Lubomir Moravcik came to the club.

To say that there was scepticism about the 33-year-old Slovakian when he was brought to Glasgow by fellow countryman Dr Jozef Venglos for £200,000 from Duisburg in October 1998 (as per the Daily Record) would be an understatement.

As noted by These Football Times, numerous journalists scoffed at the manager’s decision to sign him. The Sunday Mail’s Hugh Keevins wrote: “I don’t know what I find more laughable; the fact that Celtic cannot find £500,000 from their biscuit tin to sign a proven talent like John Spencer, or the fact that they then spent £300,000 on one of Dr. Jo’s old pals, the unknown Lubomir Moravcik!”

Meanwhile, journalist John Traynor wrote that the signing of Moravcik has “merely caused [Celtic] further embarrassment”. [via These Football Times]

Within a month of joining Celtic, the Slovakian midfielder had given those critics plenty to mull over, scoring twice in a 5-1 hammering of league leaders Rangers. [via BBC]

He may have been approaching the twilight of his career, having represented the former Czechoslovakia at the 1990 World Cup, but Paul Murphy of These Football Times described him as “one of those players who seemed to have more time on the ball than those around him”, adding that he “dribbled superbly despite limited pace and scored many spectacular goals from distance with both feet”.

After Venglos left Celtic in the summer of 1999, Moravcik frequently found himself out of the team under John Barnes at the expense of Eyal Berkovic, who as the club’s then-record signing of £5.7m was often preferred by the manager but not by many Hoops supporters. [via Celtic Underground]

Once Martin O’Neill came to Parkhead a year later, though, the Slovakian’s fortunes rose rapidly. In the 6-2 drubbing of Rangers in August 2000, Moravcik set up two goals in the opening 11 minutes (as per BBC) to set Celtic on their way to an emphatic victory.

He again caused the ‘Gers nightmares later that season, scoring twice in a 3-0 win at Ibrox, Celtic’s first success at the home of their Glasgow rivals in seven years. [via The Guardian]

The 2001/02 season would be Moravcik’s last for the Hoops but he again came to the fore in memorable wins. He set up two of Celtic’s goals in the 4-3 win over Juventus in the Champions League in what BBC‘s match report described as a “virtuoso performance” from the veteran.

Upon departing the club in the summer of 2002, the Slovakian had won two league titles, two Scottish League Cups and one Scottish Cup. He scored 35 goals in 129 appearances for the club (as per Soccerbase), a tremendous return for his paltry £200,000 transfer fee.

Celtic legend Henrik Larsson (a man dubbed the King of Kings by many supporters) picked him in a best XI of footballers with whom he played, testifying to Moravcik’s excellence at the club.

The Slovakian midfielder’s many magnificent displays at Parkhead ensured that the initial sceptics’ scathing remarks 21 years ago would subsequently appear very foolish.

Celtic fans, what are your favourite memories of Moravcik? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Flashback: Lubomir Moravcik’s superb spell at Celtic made initial critics look very foolish
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