The Belgian international defender is already eagerly anticipating the challenge which faces the Scottish champions to translate their domestic dominance to greater continental credibility in the 2017-18 campaign. Celtic reached the group stage of the Champions League this season but, while they earned plaudits for some of their performances, they failed to win any of their six fixtures and finished bottom behind Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Moenchengladbach.
In nine group stage appearances since their first back in 2001-02 under Martin O’Neill, Celtic have progressed to the last 16 knockout phase three times – twice under Gordon Strachan in 2006-07 and 2007-08 and most recently when Neil Lennon’s squad lost to Juventus in 2012-13.
Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond has pinpointed a return to the last 16 of the Champions League as the next target for Brendan Rodgers after the former Liverpool boss led the club to the unprecedented achievement of an unbeaten domestic season in all competitions.
While Rodgers has previously stated his own ambition to try to establish Celtic as a regular presence in the post-Christmas phase of the Champions League, he is also calling for a realistic appraisal of the difficulties the club face in bridging the gap in resources between themselves and those in Europe’s most powerful leagues.
Celtic must again get through three qualifying rounds next season just to earn a place in the group stage and will discover their first opponents when the draw takes place at Uefa’s Swiss headquarters in Nyon on 19 June.
But confidence is clearly high among the buoyant Celtic squad, with Boyata insisting he and his team-mates are ready to make a significant impact in the Champions League.
“We have all the qualities to get there and challenge any team,” said Boyata. “We know there are big teams in there but we know we can do well in the Champions League. I think we will keep improving, day after day and game after game.”
Boyata, meanwhile, has defended the scale of Celtic’s achievement in completing all 47 of their domestic fixtures without defeat this season.
The former Manchester City player is aware that the perception of Scottish football south of the border leads some observers to cast doubt on the magnitude of what Rodgers’ squad have done over the past ten months.
“If people don’t think it’s a big achievement they should know it’s a lot harder than it looks,” added Boyata. “We’ve worked very hard to get ourselves into this position. People can say it’s easy but, having been part of it, I can tell them that it’s very, very difficult. It’s a great achievement for every player.”