Celtic are likely to complete a unique Champions League campaign this week. It is unlikely they will beat Manchester City in their Etihad Stadium, meaning this will be the first of their nine group stages showings not to produce a victory.
The presence of teams from three of the top four nations, and their competitiveness at home to City and Barcelona, and away to Borussia Monchengladbach, has ensured they have been cut some slack on their return to the top table for the first time in three years.
Brendan Rodgers, though, acknowledges that next season must see them capable of wins if they progress from the Champions League qualifiers. In what, if the Fates are kinder, you would think would be a less daunting group.
The Celtic manager is building a capable team. It is likely to start to be dismantled within 18 months, so he appreciates his window for making his assembled talent count in the Champions League could be his second season.
“Hopefully we can attract in players who will want to stay for a number of years, especially if they’re young players like Moussa [Dembele]. The likelihood then is that they get snapped up and that’s great for Celtic. Everyone will benefit as the fans get to see a top young player for a few years. And if they go the key for us is getting the next one but at the right level.
“When you’re realistic and know that, then it’s fine. I’d love to say we’re going to keep the team here and build something that can grow and grow and grow. That was my frustration at Liverpool. My main objective was to get the team into the Champions League. And when we arrived there we had a lesser team than when we qualified. So that was the frustrating.
“Players will be recycled; you bring them in, they develop and improve and then they go for money. Then the next one comes in and you’re back to square one. But you’re hopeful that with your recruitment, if you’re clever and smart then you bring someone in who’s not right at the start [of their development].”