Celtic went out of the Champions League to Juventus last night in the last 16 of the competition, after a 2-0 defeat at the Juventus Stadium.
The Scottish sides’ European adventure may have come to an end, but they have had a significant impact on the competition.
The Scottish champions have been something of a surprise package in the Champions League this season.
The Hoops wasn’t expected to make it out of their group containing Barcelona, Spartak Moscow and Benfica.
Neil Lennon’s side gained some very creditable results, including a 3-2 victory in Moscow against Spartak and an even more incredible 2-1 victory at home to Spanish giants Barcelona.
The last 16 tie against Italian giants Juventus was always going to be a difficult one and in the end the tie was step too far. The Italian team were just too good for their Scottish opponents.
However, the Celtic players disgraced themselves against the Bianconeri and indeed a host of the Celtic players enhanced their reputation in the European game by their performances.
The likes of Victor Wanyama, Fraser Forster and Gary Hooper have attracted huge interest from other clubs. Even boss Neil Lennon is being linked with a summer exit. Goalkeeper Forster recently stated that he believes that a number of Celtic’s top players could leave Parkhead in the summer.
Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster has developed into a top keeper at Celtic Park, despite the odd gaffe like last nights. When Forster arrived at Celtic a couple of years ago the keeper was an unknown.
Now he is in and around the full England squad. His performances are believed to have attracted interest from Premier League clubs in England.
Striker Gary Hooper spent most of his career in the English lower leagues, before moving to the SPL with Celtic. He has scored goals wherever he has gone and is by far Celtic’s best striker.
Celtic could have sold striker Hooper in the January transfer window, but decided to reject three bids from Premier League Norwich. One of the key factors in keeping hold of the striker was that the Hoops were still in the Champions League.
Hooper has stated in the past his ambition of playing for England one day. However, his performances in the SPL have been largely ignored by England bosses. He may feel that this summer is the right time to move on and no doubt there would be renewed interest from top flight English clubs.
Wanyama is possibly the biggest assets that Celtic currently has in their squad. The Kenyan international has been a colossus in the centre of the park for Celtic this season and his reputation has been enhanced massively in Celtic’s Champions League campaign.
Wanyama’s performance against Barcelona at Parkhead was a particular highlight. It showed that the young midfielder can compete at the highest level.
Premier League leaders Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for the defensive midfielder and it seems unlikely that Wanyama will be at the club much longer.
If Celtic wants to progress and build on their performance in the Champions League this season then they need to keep their current squad together and if possible.
However, everybody at the club is realistic and even boss Neil Lennon recently admitted that it would be hard for his club to keep their star players.
Celtic are head and shoulders above everybody else in their domestic league, both financially and playing wise. They are though a big fish in a small pond and don’t have the financial clout to compete with the big teams in Europe.
Unless Celtic can find a wealthy benefactor then the Hoops will always have to sell their best players and never really move forward. Unfortunately, I very much doubt that Celtic will still have all their best players next season.
Can Celtic keep hold of their star players this summer?