Rodgers in­sists Europa League run is out of reach in cur­rent cli­mate

Evening Times - - FRONT PAGE - By ALI­SON McCON­NELL

BREN­DAN Rodgers has con­ceded that Celtic do­ing an­other Seville is un­likely to hap­pen again – ei­ther in this sea­son or any other.

It is 15 years since Martin O’Neill led the Park­head side to the 2003 UEFA Cup fi­nal against Porto in Seville, an achieve­ment that Rodgers can­not see the club em­u­lat­ing in the cur­rent cli­mate.

The Park­head side be­gin their Europa League cam­paign this evening as they host Zenit St Peters­burg, with Rodgers point­ing out the sig­nif­i­cant changes across foot­ball as whole since Celtic were last in a ma­jor Euro­pean fi­nal.

“There are two fac­tors,” ex­plained the Celtic man­ager. “The game has changed and Celtic have changed. Look back at the play­ers Celtic had then.

“Celtic were tak­ing some of the best play­ers from the Pre­mier League. They were bring­ing Chris Sut­ton up here, John Hart­son up here, Neil Len­non up here.

“They were bring­ing Paul Lam­bert back

from Dort­mund. These are top, top play­ers.

“So the fi­nan­cial cli­mate is to­tally dif­fer­ent now to what it was back then for Celtic.

“There will be al­ways be ex­pec­ta­tion here. We al­ways want to fight and, like our pre­de­ces­sors, try to do the very best that we can. But when you com­pare it to that, foot­ball and Celtic have changed a lot.”

At one point Celtic’s wage bill was in the top five across Bri­tish foot­ball, a stand­ing that has long since been sur­passed by even Cham­pi­onship clubs.

“It would have to have been,” said Rodgers. “You’re tak­ing John Har­ton, Chris Sut­ton and these boys. Sut­ton came from Chelsea.”

Celtic’s fi­nan­cial fig­ures last week re­vealed a club that have made a con­sid­er­able profit in re­cent months, with £30m banked from the sale of play­ers as well as their in­volve­ment in the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League group stage.

The pub­lish­ing of the fig­ures led to an im­me­di­ate re­sponse in some quar­ters ques­tion­ing why the club have not in­vested more heav­ily into the play­ing side.

But Rodgers has main­tained that he has no quib­ble with the re­sources he has – and has also re­vealed the chang­ing of the Scot­tish land­scape has made it harder than ever to bring play­ers north of the border.

“The point is that the club is run very, very well,” he said.

“You can spend t he money but it’s the player com­ing to Scot­land which is the big fac­tor. It’s wages, it’s as­tro­turf pitches and all this.

“There are mul­ti­ple rea­sons why a player would or wouldn’t come.

“What the bal­ance sheet shows is that the club, the in­sti­tu­tion, is be­ing run very, very well.

“They spend money but they have to run it sen­si­bly. I don’t think it will ever go back to what it was 15 years ago.”

Celtic had Chris Sut­ton up front back in 2003

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