Patrick Roberts: I came back to play in games like this
The 20-year-old earned himself the sponsors’ man-of-the-match award in Saturday’s scratchy win over Dundee. It is the prospect of strutting his stuff in the iconic football citadel of the Allianz on Champions League duty, though, that had the Manchester City employee itching to head back north for another loan spell in the summer following 18 months spent in Glasgow. And, frankly, the Scottish champions’ willingness to pay the £42,000-a-week salary of the winger City enticed from Fulham in a £12m deal was not related to any need for his talents on the domestic scene.
“This is why they brought me back, and why I wanted to come back. For these nights,” Roberts said of taking on the might of Bayern Munich in club football’s most prestigious tournament. “I want to push on in European competition, which is an aim. Hopefully, we can do that.”
In truth, there is little hope of Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic, and Roberts, burnishing their Champions League credentials at the home of an institution that have, on five occasions, claimed the club game’s greatest prize.
Even allowing for the upheaval that led Bayern to bin manager Carlos Ancelotti and turn, for a fourth time, to favourite their coaching son, Jupp Heynckes. The 72-year-old seems to have had an instant recuperative effect, with his return to the club’s technical area marked by Saturday’s 5-0 thumping of Freiburg that brought the German champions their biggest win of the season.
Indeed, for all that Celtic come into the game on the back of their 3-0 victory over Anderlecht – their finest away win in the Champions League across 16 years in the competition – and the creditable draw in Moenchengladbach the last time they were in Germany, the odds are so heavily stacked against them tomorrow night as to be off the scale.
None of this, though, prevents Roberts relishing the chance to mix it with the game’s elite.
“I’ve never played there before. It will be a brilliant and different experience in Munich,” he said.
There will be knowns as well as unknowns about the excursion for Roberts. In Arjen Robben, the youngster will be sharing a pitch with a player he has made no secret of having modelled his own jinking wing play on.
“I have always enjoyed the way he comes inside and shoots,” he said of the 33-year-old Dutchman. “I’ve tried to emulate that, come in and shoot like that since he was at Chelsea, and I was only a young boy.
“I scored one like he did in his last game for Holland [in the 2-0 win over Sweden with which the Dutch ended an unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaign a week ago] at training.
“Players like that put the hard work in at training throughout the years and that is why they are on the biggest stage in world football. I hope one day that can be me, but I need to keep practising my technique.”
A bit of local knowledge might also be provided by a player Roberts knows from the City youth set-up.
Jadon Sancho, pictured left, moved to Borussia Dortmund from the Manchester club in a £10m deal during the summer. Yesterday, he returned to Germany after helping England progress from the group stages of the Under-17 World Cup in India with a 100 per cent record after the national team were unable to strike an agreement with Dortmund to keep him at the tournament for the duration of their stay in it.
“I don’t know if I will speak to him because he’s been in India, but he is a top player,” Roberts said of the 17-year-old.
“He made the decision to go to Dortmund this summer which a lot of people might have thought was surprising, but it is a great opportunity.
“It is a massive team, he is a top player and I am sure we will be seeing his name a lot in seasons to come.”
Roberts will be hoping nights like tomorrow in the Allianz will be a sign that the same can apply to him.