Kenny Dalglish believes Celtic have already secured their greatest prize this season whether or not his former side claim the treble for only the fourth time in their history.
In fact, Dalglish reckons Celtic reached the pinnacle shortly after their domestic campaign started by securing qualification for the Champions League with a 5-4 aggregate play-off victory over Hapoel Beer Sheva.
If Celtic do manage a domestic clean sweep Dalglish insists the achievement should be upgraded to a “quadruple” to include Champions League qualification, which he rates as their premier accomplishment despite a shock loss to Gibraltar side Lincoln Red Imps in the first game of the campaign.
“They’ve only dropped two points in the league, they have already won the League Cup but I think the greatest success, even if they win the Scottish Cup, is qualification for the Champions League,” said Dalglish yesterday.
“They got through their qualification section to get into the league section. That’s their greatest achievement. People might say, that’s a bit strange – they have only dropped two points in the league. But people keep saying how weak the league is. It is not Celtic’s fault the league is a disappointing standard. They can only beat what is in front of them, which they’ve done in some style.
“When you put them all together, the treble is important,” added Dalglish. “But to elevate the standard and status of Celtic, they have to be recognised in Europe. And that was part of the recognition, getting through in Europe to the league section.
“So, if the treble does happen, that would be four successes for me.”
Celtic are currently 27 points clear of second placed Aberdeen and 33 ahead of Old Firm rivals Rangers, who they face this weekend at Parkhead.
Hopes are high they can secure a historic treble by lifting the Scottish Cup, with Rangers also waiting at the last-four stage.
The Parkhead club have only won three trebles in their history; twice in the 1960s, including 1966-67, the season they also lifted the European Cup.
In more recent times they claimed all three major domestic trophies under Martin O’Neill, right, in season 2000-01.
Dalglish, who played first-team football for the Parkhead side from 1969 to 1977, never managed to win the treble though he won four league and Scottish Cup doubles. Celtic won the double in his last season but lost to Aberdeen in the final of the League Cup. After five wins in the 1960s, they won the League Cup only once in the following decade.
“Our hurdle was usually October, November in the League Cup,” recalled Dalglish. “It is hard to win three things. But I still say the Champions League qualification is the best [achievement]now. It is enjoyable for the players to go and play against Manchester City – that was a fantastic game at Celtic Park. They got to play Barcelona and got off to a horrendous start when they got beaten by seven over there, but they pulled it back a bit and got themselves a wee bit of pride and then did the same v Borussia Monchengladbach, who are not too bad, either.
“It was a really difficult section. But that to me is the best success they have had this season.”