It has almost felt as if Moritz Bauer has been some sort of footballing Forrest Gump when the spectacular moments in European football have rolled around in 2019. Now the Swiss international is hoping that he can start to experience such special times instead of simply witnessing them.
The Celtic right-back must be one of the lucky few to have been there in person for Liverpool’s incredible comeback against Barcelona in the second leg of last season’s Champions League semi-final, and Tottenham Hotspur’s equally fantastic efforts to prevail against Ajax at the same stage… ahead of topping off that stpuendous double by making it to Madrid for the final won by Jurgen Klopp’s men.
The on-loan Stoke City defender is in line to play in his first game in continental group stage football when Neil Lennon’s men host Cluj in the Europa League tomorrow, and will hope he can continue to be a magnet for the magical.
“I played in the play-off round for the Europa League and Champions League for Grasshopper Zurich – we played Lyon, Fiorentina, Lille and Club Brugge,” said the 26-year-old. “I could smell the atmosphere of European group game nights and then last season because I had such a good contact with [fellow Swiss international] Xherdan Shaqiri, pictured, I was often at Anfield to watch Champions League nights. I was at the Barcelona match and it was great. They were quite down after the first game but they did it and I was really blessed because I’m also friends with Dusan Tadic from Ajax so I watched both semi-finals and the final.
“It was like all my Christmases and birthdays came at once. I got tickets for all the games because I had friends in all these teams so it was really interesting.
“It gives you a taste for it and you want to get back with Celtic. The club were there for many years but it’s step by step.
“To play in Europe is a great thing and I can’t wait to experience a European night at Parkhead but we also want to be successful domestically. We have to be focused on all competitions and keep our good run going. There is no point losing in the league and winning in Europe.”
Yet, although continental competition is always considered a selling point for any new arrivals to the Scottish champions it wasn’t what drew Bauer into coming north from a club where he found himself restricted to an increasingly peripheral role.
“I signed a couple of hours before we qualified for Europe so it wasn’t the main factor but I was buzzing obviously because we all want to play in these big games,” he said. “We have the squad to do well in Europe and we have more variety in the squad with the players we have added. ”
Bauer is up against Hatem Abd Elhamed for Celtic’s right-back berth but believes they can work in tandem. He feels that way about all his new team-mates, especially captain Scott Brown.
“I can learn from Hatem and he’s an international so we’ll make each other better. I try to adapt and I enjoy being part of a good group and I’m lucky to speak different languages. I can understand the jokes but the Scottish accent is one I have to get the hang of.
“Scott Brown is a very funny guy and an iconic figure in this club. He has some more years on his CV and more titles and I look forward to learning from him and growing as a player and a human because to be such a leader you need good man-management skills.”