Mancini, Sir Alex and why only Europe matters for Celtic

Much has been made about the decline in Scottish football of late, with Celtic certain to make it a six league titles in a row, looking to go unbeaten across an entire domestic campaign.

Brendan Rodgers’ impact at Parkhead has obviously been a positive one and any team managing to avoid defeat in three domestic competitions over the course of a whole season is quite an achievement, though it’s clear the Bhoys are lightyears ahead of the chasing pack. As a result, the standard of the Premiership is the butt of the joke – particularly south of the border.

Maybe that’s what makes Roberto Mancini’s comments on the notion of managing the Hoops one day so interesting. Clearly, an out of work manager discussing the idea of taking a club the size as Celtic should be taken with a pinch of salt, considering his current employment position. But this is a man who has won the cup at every club he’s managed, as well as four league titles in Italy and England, who is talking openly what it would take to move to Scotland. It is certainly worth listening to, but it is also a good indicator of where the league currently stands in Europe.

“For me, that is the next step for them, and one which I believe they are trying to take.

“Winning the league has become normal for them. They have the fans and the history.

“Now they have to strive to become an important player at the top level in Europe.”

Rodgers’ arrival at Parkhead was a coup for Scottish football. Though his time in charge of Liverpool came to a rather sour end, the Northern Irishman almost led the Reds to a first Premier League title and is the only boss to manage the club in the Champions League since Rafa Benitez. He’s completely reinvigorated the way in which the Bhoys play, introducing a stylish brand of football and one to dispel the stagnant feelings the latter stages of the Ronny Deila era left.

It seems strange to say that a man who looks on course to deliver a historic treble in just his first season in Scotland still has it all to prove. But Mancini’s comments show that the wider footballing public are waiting to see their progress in the Champions League before truly getting a measure on the club’s real standing as a potentially attractive proposition.

Granted, Celtic were dealt a difficult group this season and there was a marked improvement throughout the course of their continental campaign since the 7-0 drubbing in Barcelona at the start of their return to the competition. However, as much as Rodgers may have convinced domestically, he’s still got it all to do to help boost the profile of Scottish football once more.

There’s no doubting of his work in starting to do exactly that, though next season is the biggest test any manager can possibly have, improving on what could potentially be a perfect season domestically, while battling the big boys in Europe on a relatively low budget.

For fans of other teams in SPFL, Celtic’s dominance is undoubtedly boring. While the strength of the Premier League never allowed it to such an extent, the anti-Manchester United feelings amongst many supporters in England are purely as a result of their serial trophy winning under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Interestingly enough, the Scot himself has recently been talking about the cyclical nature of prolonged success. Speaking to ESPN, the Glasgow-born icon was discussing the stranglehold Spanish teams currently have on the Champions League, believing time will change that, profoundly stating: ”I think the cycle will change.”

Clearly, it’ll take an almighty slip up to imagine Celtic not winning the next few league titles, such is the nature of their strength compared to other domestic teams. Still, comments from Mancini highlighting exactly what they need to do to take a positive next step, as well as insight from Ferguson in regards to how success works, show just how important next season is in Paradise.

Arch rivals Rangers are very, very far behind the Bhoys at the moment, there’s no getting away from that. However, keeping that very distance while improving in the Champions League will be the biggest test the club have had in years.