Celtic have been blessed with a plethora of elite talent over the years, although few names have captured the imagination quite as successfully as that of cult figure, Lubomir Moravcik, with the former Slovakia international having gone from puzzling acquisition to instant hero.
The Hoops – then managed by the playmaker’s compatriot Josef Venglos – had made what at the time appeared something of a bizarre move to sign the ageing menace, with the Old Firm outfit forking out a reported fee of around £300k to land the 33-year-old from German outfit MSV Duisburg in 1998.
That addition had memorably been questioned by pundit Hugh Keevins in his column for the Daily Mail at the time, as he wrote that it was ‘laughable’ that the Glasgow side had splashed the cash on the ‘unknown’ veteran.
Keevins – who later admitted his fault – would be made to eat his words, however, as Moravick went on dazzle in the green and white jersey, proving something of a bargain despite the initial reservations of his arrival, with journalist John Traynor also noting the “embarrassment” of making such a move at the time.
The fleet-footed forward would make an instant impression in his new surroundings to help quash the doubters, stealing the show on his derby debut against bitter rivals Rangers at Parkhead in November 1998.
That outing against the Gers saw the one-time Bastia man sparkle as the midfielder netted a brilliant brace in what was a thumping 5-1 victory, producing a stunning strike from just outside the box, before adding to his tally with a powerful, bullet header.
Something of a “maverick” figure – in the words of former teammate Chris Sutton – the 5 foot 8 genius reportedly celebrated that clinical display in amusing fashion, with Mark Burchill stating: “Who’s standing on the corner waiting for a taxi eating the biggest burger I have ever seen? Lubomir Moravcik. On his own, no family. He’d walked out the stadium, walked 150 yards and bought this burger.”
That tale seemingly epitomised the down-to-earth and nonchalant manner of the player, with the one-time Saint-Etienne man having unsurprisingly become a much-loved figure at Paradise, even being dubbed a ‘gift from God’ by some quarters.
The affectionately named ‘Lubo’ would go on to enjoy four sparkling years in Scottish football, scoring 35 goals and winning two league titles in that time, proving a constant thorn in the side of the club’s Ibrox foes as he also netted another brace in the Glasgow derby in April 2001.
The creative genius would bring to an end his time at Parkhead a year later after making a move to Japan to reunite with the aforementioned Venglos, although the club’s love affair with Moravcik still lives on today.
In truth, Celtic truly did strike gold with their initial, low-cost investment.