Brendan Rodgers may have hit a glass ceiling in Europe but John Hartson remains confident the Celtic manager won’t be seeking the exit door from Scottish football this summer.
A 2-0 defeat at home by Valencia in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie last week left Rodgers to reflect on the limits he is operating within while on the continental stage with Celtic.
There is inevitable and persistent speculation over how long the 46-year-old’s ambitions will be satisfied by the unprecedented domestic dominance he has overseen at the Scottish champions since his arrival in the summer of 2017.
Hartson, however, believes even clinching a triple-treble this season wouldn’t persuade Rodgers he has achieved all he can at the club. The former Celtic striker feels the Northern Irishman will look to see out his contract, which runs until 2021 and be at the helm for what could be a record-breaking tenth consecutive league title win that year.
“If he wins ten in a row, he could walk on water – and I think Brendan would quite like to walk on water,” said Hartson.
“I don’t go along with the idea Brendan will leave Celtic in the summer. He’s living the dream as it is. It’s not about money for him, I think Brendan is very wealthy and he’s still very young in terms of management. “As a man still in his forties, he’ll have another 20 years at the top.
“As things are, he’s very well thought of and he could probably pick his next job, whether that’s abroad or back in the Premier League. But for now I like to believe he’s at Celtic for the long haul. In the first leg against Valencia last week, it looked to me like some of the Celtic players had their eyes on a different prize. For me they just want that treble again.
“That would be a monumental feat if they were to go and do the triple treble. Right now they’re favourites to do it so Brendan will want to get that out of the way. With him, he thinks game by game and the next trophy.
“But I believe he’s here to stay.
“His contract tells you that so I don’t think there is any issue on that front. Obviously we don’t know for certain what’s happening at boardroom level.
“But I don’t think there is any offer out there at the minute that would tempt Brendan away. He’s managed big clubs so, as I say, it’s not about the money. I just think Brendan will want to stay and create history.”
Celtic will travel to Spain tomorrow ahead of the second leg against Valencia on Thursday night with few observers giving them any credible hope of overturning the defeat suffered in Glasgow.
Regardless of the outcome in the Mestalla, Hartson feels Celtic’s recovery from both a difficult start to this season and their 1-0 defeat by Rangers at Ibrox just before the winter break are more significant from Rodgers’ perspective.
“Celtic had their problems during the summer when they didn’t get all their transfers targets in and there were a few disgruntled people around,” he added.
“It also looked as though they’d lost their captain. Everyone thought that Scott Brown was going to sign a deal with Western Melbourne but he’s shown great character to stay at Celtic.
“He’s also come back into the team and been brilliant in the last few games. Plus their January signings have been brilliant.
“People talk about Oliver Burke and Timothy Weah only being loan signings but that’s a topic for another day. The fact is that they got the right players in and they’ve certainly made a big impact. “I never thought of Oliver Burke as an out-and-out centre-forward but Brendan is nurturing him in that position and he’s proved me wrong by getting goals.
“Celtic have lost four league games this season, which is the same amount they lost in the two previous campaigns.
“So, given the way the season has gone – and don’t forget that Rangers were level on points with them when they beat them at Ibrox on 29 December for the first time in God knows how many years – I think that, should Celtic go on to clinch the title, it would be the most pleasing one for Brendan. To have taken them over the line and make it eight in a row will be a big thing for him.”
• John Hartson was presenting a cheque for £20,000 on behalf of his Foundation to the Beatson Cancer Charity in Glasgow. The Hartson Foundation is on course to crash through the £1 million barrier this year for funds raised.