Peter Lawwell believes Brendan Rodgers is unique among the five managers he has worked with because the Northern Irishman comes nearest to “the full package”.
The Celtic chief executive stressed Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan, Neil Lennon and Ronny Deila were all hugely significant figures, who were operating in times that were hard to compare. But he feels the Parkhead club have struck gold with Rodgers, who signed a new four-year contract as Celtic manager yesterday.
“I have been here for 14 years now and worked with five different managers,” said Lawwell. “They are all great managers but I definitely think Brendan is world-class.
“Technically, tactically he is exceptional.
“With the greatest respects to the managers we’ve had here, because we have had great managers here, I mean Lenny [Neil Lennon] has had three [league titles], Ronny has had two, I think he [Rodgers] would be the nearest to the full package, in terms of having the lot,” he added.
“Some had big strengths, others some weaknesses, but he is the nearest to the full package.”
It was pointed out to Lawwell that O’Neill, while still revered, would probably admit himself he is not a training-ground manager. Rodgers clearly is – and a lot else besides.
“And that’s what we need,” agreed Lawwell. “It’s about development, creating, building teams as opposed to being able to buy then.
“He has demonstrated his ability to do that on the back of the majority of players [this season] being the ones that were here last season. That’s vital for us.”
Rodgers and the club agreed to rip up the one-year rolling deal agreed in May last year and sign something more permanent. The new contract means Rodgers is contracted until 2021 – or at least that’s the intention.
As Rodgers warned with a knowing smile yesterday: “I signed a four-year deal with Liverpool, I will never forget, but after one year it was ‘thanks very much’…”
But he is aware that, with two major honours already secured and the potential for a historic third in the shape of the Scottish Cup, he is in a good place.
When the boss rates you above even O’Neill, Celtic’s foremost manager of recent times, it illustrates how well things have gone in Rodgers’ first nine months, with the fans able to show their appreciation this afternoon when Celtic host Kilmarnock.
But, as Rodgers found at Anfield two years ago, things can change very quickly.
Just over a year after coming so close to leading Liverpool to a first English title since 1990, he was sacked.
“You never know what will happen,” said Rodgers. “But that [four years] is the plan.”
A central plank of The Plan is to continue Celtic’s dominance of Scottish football for the next four years. This would take the club up to an unprecedented ten league titles in a row.
Lawwell denied the length of contract was arranged with such a significant total in mind. But the time frame is clearly designed to cause a degree of spluttering across the city, where Rangers fear having the nine-in-a-row record they currently share with Celtic eclipsed.
“It’s purely coincidence,” smiled Lawwell. “When you get to six it gets closer and closer and our fans are looking at it and everyone is looking towards it.”
Lawwell was more interested in the message the news is designed to send out to others clubs in England, specifically those being linked with Rodgers.
“Don’t bother, don’t waste your time. The message is clear,” said Lawwell.
“We have plans, We have ambition.”
Rodgers was not easily drawn on the prospect of ten in a row but acknowledged the supporters’ yearning.
“When you start to accumulate titles and you get up to six then of course that’s what they look towards,” he said. “There’s a heck of a lot of work and things that could change before then. But I just wanted to commit myself to a life I love both professionally and personally.
“I have a special feeling here,” he added.
He conceded he was once in too much of a rush. Not now. “Watford gave me my chance, which I will always be grateful for,” he recalled. “We were able to get them out of trouble then, seven months later, I decided to leave and go to Reading. Reading was a club I thought I knew. I signed for three years and it only lasted six months. So I learned from that.”
He then took charge at Swansea, leading them into the Premier League, before becoming “a very young manager” at at Liverpool, where he moved aged 39.
“So I have been able to experience a few different situations,” he explained. “But happiness is the key. If you’re not happy then, despite what money you can get, you can’t work very well.
“There were maybe possibilities to have gone to the Premier League,” he admitted. “But I would forfeit all of that to be here and happy. This is a club I love and know well. I could be a manager ’til I’m 60, so that gives me another 16 years. But, in these next four years, I want to give everything to Celtic.”