Stiliyan Petrov believes Celtic are so far ahead of their domestic rivals that they could conceivably win the treble five years in a row.
Brendan Rodgers’ side can clinch a seventh consecutive league title at home to Rangers on Sunday and then make it a clean sweep on 19 May if they can defeat Motherwell in the Scottish Cup final. It would be the first time a Scottish club has won back-to-back trebles.
But Petrov, who spent seven seasons at Parkhead, fears for Scottish football’s identity if his former club’s dominance goes unchecked.
The Bulgarian argues that Celtic supporters should not celebrate that level of hegemony, claiming that, it will ultimately make them weaker at home and abroad.
“I watched the last game on TV and, while I was happy for Celtic, I was disappointed with the quality of the football, to be honest,” said the 39-year-old, referring to Celtic’s 4-0 win in the Scottish Cup semi-final earlier this month.
“Usually, when you build up to a Celtic v Rangers game, you know what to expect. In the previous games, Rangers had shown a bit more desire, fight and urgency but, at Hampden, there was nothing.
“It was so flat and it’s really a shame to see Rangers going that way. We all talked about Rangers closing the gap but they didn’t show any sign of it. Being an ex-Celtic player and a fan, I want to see good
Celtic v Rangers games. I want to see Celtic being challenged.
“I think Celtic have a really special team – a young, talented team but it hasn’t been challenged yet. I’d like to see that because it would be good for Scottish football and for Brendan Rodgers and Celtic. You want to see your rival pushing you.
“However, if it continues like now, Celtic might not get anywhere in Europe, where you need to maintain your form and be on top of your game. These days, Celtic could lose ten games and still win the league.
“Celtic have a chance to win the treble again next season and, if Rangers keeps going the same way, they have a chance to do it for the next three years. That’s sad in one way because, if that happens, Scottish football will lose its identity. The advertising in Scottish football is Celtic v Rangers. I come from a different country and every time that game came up, I’d watch it; the build-up, the excitement, the electricity. everything. If that’s lost, it would be very sad for Scottish football and I’m saying that as an outsider.”
Petrov contends that transforming the title race into a procession will be a turn-off for the club’s brightest talents as well as those they hope to lure to Glasgow.
“Celtic have a lot of young, exciting players who would like to improve and be challenged,” he said. “If they’re not challenged here, then they will go.
“If someone comes in for Moussa Dembele and he isn’t being challenged here then he’ll move on.
“People talk about Henrik Larsson but he explained why he stayed for seven years; the push, the
build-up, the physicality – everything about that Celtic
v Rangers and how it was shown around the world – kept him here.
“If you don’t have that, how are you going to attract the good players to come to Scotland?”