Peter Lawwell has revealed that Celtic have spent £35m going from Champions League contenders to Europa League flops in the space of 18 months.
No traditional questions were asked at yesterday’s virtual AGM with an in-house video interview giving the club CEO the chance to address some of the issues posed by supporters.
His use of dates was interesting, if he wants to start the timeline at July 2019 he can’t claim that no big players have been sold since a £25m cheque arrived from Arsenal for Kieran Tierney. A season and a half later and no adequate replacement has been found for the left-back.
Asked about falling asleep at the wheel Lawwell replied saying:
We came out the window with a very strong squad and we’d spent, as a club over the previous 14 months July 19 to that point, £35million. We’d never spent anything like that in the past. We’ve strengthened and we’ve kept all our big players – so that’s not complacency.
In July 2019, ahead of the biggest spending spree in the club’s history Celtic were in the Champions League qualifiers with Chris Jullien (£7m) and Boli Bolingoli (£3m) in the squad but left on the bench for the home match against Cluj.
Bizarrely Callum McGregor started at left-back against Cluj, Jozo Simunovic and Kris Ajer played ahead of Jullien with Hatem Abd Elhamed (£1.6m) playing at right-back in a new look defence that lost four goals as Celtic missed out on the chance to collect £30m from the Champions League.
On the back of that defeat Fraser Forster, Moi Elyounoussi and Moritz Bauer were brought in on loan. In January £5.5m was spent on Ismaila Soro and Patryk Klimala.
Those mistakes were repeated a year later, no new signings were in place for the pre-season trips to Loughborough and France as Lennon’s squad apparently prepared for the Champions League qualifiers which had been stripped down to one off ties.
Luck was on Celtic’s side when the home win over KR Reykjavik brought them another home tie against Ferencvaros.
New goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas (£4.5m) started his fourth match but it was a night to forget as Celtic lost 2-1 to the Hungarian champions. Albian Ajeti (£4.5) wasn’t deemed fit enough to start but came on for the last 12 minutes as Soro and Klimala sat it out on the bench.
Within a week of the defeat Shane Duffy came in on loan with £3m spent on Motherwell’s David Turnbull.
As Lawwell claimed yesterday £35m has been spent on the team, how much those players are now worth is debatable.
What can’t be disputed is that the club has twice missed out on picking up £30m from reaching the Champions League and trailed in behind Sparta Prague in the Europa League, suffering an 8-2 aggregate defeat against the Czech champions.
With £35m spent on the squad Celtic have lost five home matches before the end of November but can lift the Scottish Cup by beating Hearts on Sunday.
Since picking up the Tierney cheque £5m has been spent on Greg Taylor and Boli Bolingoli, during the Europa League ties Lennon turned to loan signing Diego Laxalt in that position.