It’s a very sad state of affairs for all Celtic fans, but their club just cannot get it consistently right when it comes to the Champions League. The club has the fondest of memories of lifting the famous trophy in ’67. It must therefore be with some bitterness that their fans reflect on the fact that their dominance of the Scottish League, has not translated to continental success.
It now appears that their highly successful manager may also be using the club’s inability to regularly compete with Europe’s best, as an excuse to manufacture an exit.
“It’s pretty obvious, you have to keep progressing and you have to keep getting stronger. What we’ve done in the two years has made other clubs and other teams become stronger.”
This would be a blow for Celtic, but what of their manager? Rodgers has enjoyed unprecedented dominance with Celtic, consecutive trebles no less, but is it enough for him to land a top job South of the border?
Success with a but
Neil Lennon, Martin O’Neil, Walter Smith and Gordon Strachan are all men who can lay their hat on genuine success with The Old Firm. They are all managers though who have had mixed results in England to say the least.
Walter Smith was not popular with the blue half of Merseyside in the years before David Moyes. Whilst Neil Lennon could only land a job at Championship outfit Bolton Wanderers; this was despite the Ulsterman’s five major honours in four years in charge at Celtic Park.
The underlying fact is clear; success in Scotland is fine, but is, by no means, an indicator of future success in bigger, more demanding leagues.
So what then for Brendan Rodgers? His dreams of getting Celtic in to the Champions League proper for a third successive year are now an Athenian ruin. The former Liverpool boss has already come out and bemoaned the club’s lack of investment.
In fairness to the Celtic board, they can hardly afford to throw money around in the manner seen South of the border. The annual turnover of £90 million is dwarfed by the Premier League sides, as is The Hoop’s transfer spending. Without the precious TV rights revenue available to them, Celtic have spent just £30 million in three seasons. It’s little wonder they struggle to compete.
Under the Microscope
Rodgers will be all too aware of these limitations as he no doubt ponders his next move. Having already managed Liverpool and Celtic, the forty-five year old will likely feel he has the CV to manage at the very highest levels of the game. He has already won six trophies with The Hoops and has a good deal of variety and experience on his CV already. He has also got the Scottish Champions in to the group stages of the Champions League in consecutive seasons, missing out for only the first time this season.
However, the leap up from Scottish football to the relentless demands of the top six clubs in England is enormous. The harsh reality for Rodgers is that none of them will regard the Ulsterman as a serious candidate off the back of his success with Celtic.
At Liverpool, he showed too often that he was tactically flawed as a manager. It cost him the title in 2014 and continued to blight him in his final year when expectations were raised. On the other hand, he got Liverpool closer to a title than any other manager since 1990. The football played was good at times and players like Suarez and Henderson improved dramatically under his stewardship.
No matter how hard he tried though he couldn’t fix Liverpool’s defensive failings and he made some very poor errors of judgement. Skrtel was never dropped and he opted to use Sterling either as a wing back or a loan striker, no wonder he had his head turned by Manchester City. Also, despite his European achievements with Celtic, he has managed to win just one in twelve group matches, conceding twenty-four times. He’s no doubt a successful manager, but it’s not the kind of success that opens doors for him at the very top of the game.
However, clubs will know all about Rodgers though and he will almost certainly find receptive suitors at clubs like Newcastle, Southampton and Leicester, should they continue with their managerial instability. All three clubs would provide a sound base to build something on, if Ashley ever leaves Newcastle that is.
Rodgers though may not see those clubs as a suitable next step. He is an ambitious man with real desire to make it at a top club. Could that extend his focus past England and down to The Iberian Peninsula?
The Celtic manager is a Spanish speaker and a known admirer of the league’s football ideology. The top three or four are shut off to him, but he may look at what Unai Emery managed to do with Seville, or Pellegrini with Villareal, as inspiration for finally staking a claim as one of the game’s best managers. It could prove to be a very shrewd move indeed.
Ultimately he may well decide to stick rather than twist. Steven Gerrard is showing early, promising signs that he is capable of reviving Ranger’s fortunes. If he is successful at Ibrox, then he may well be able to create an actual tittle race to keep Celtic on their toes. Rodgers will also know that he will be virtually guaranteed more trophies if he stops at Celtic Park for another year or two. He must be wary of his predecessors though and not stay too long in a backwater, where your success is taken with a pinch of salt. It’s that danger which may ultimately force his hand and send him looking for a new challenge.