English Premiership

Rodgers's departure clouds Celtic legacy despite domestic dominance

2019-02-27 07:35
Scott Brown and Brendan Rodgers (Getty Images)

London - Brendan Rodgers delivered on his promise to dominate Scottish football as Celtic manager, but his decision to leave behind the chance to win a third domestic treble for Leicester City is a bitter pill for many in Glasgow to swallow.

Rodgers leaves the Scottish champions having won all seven domestic trophies on offer during his nearly three seasons in charge.

The Northern Irishman landed two league titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups, as well as amassing an eight-point lead over Rangers to put Celtic on course for an eighth straight Premiership title this season.

"He gave the club so much and has created so many wonderful memories for the club and our supporters. His achievements are historic," said Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell in an unusually glowing appraisal for an outgoing manager.

Yet, by jumping at the riches and recognition offered by a Premier League return with just three months of the season remaining, Rodgers has cost himself some goodwill with the Celtic support.

On his first day in charge of the Glasgow giants, he described Celtic as "one of the biggest clubs in the world" and a "certainly not a step down" from the Premier League.

Three years on, those words now ring hollow as he takes charge of a Leicester side languishing in 12th, out of the FA Cup, and with little to play for between now and the end of the season.

Premier League's financial muscle

It is just the latest example of how mid-ranking Premier League clubs now have the financial muscle to outmanoeuvre traditional powers in smaller leagues.

Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama left Celtic for Southampton in recent seasons before securing big-money moves to Liverpool and Tottenham respectively.

Now Rodgers may see a similar path back to a top-six job in England after a disappointing end to his time at Liverpool, which saw him sacked in 2015 just a year after nearly winning the Premier League.

Success in Scotland has restored Rodgers's reputation to some degree, but not enough to land either the Chelsea or Arsenal jobs when both London sides changed managers last summer.

That is due to a lack of progress with Celtic on the European stage. Rodgers registered just one win in 12 Champions League group games, including club-record defeats in Europe - 7-0 away at Barcelona and 5-0 at home to Paris Saint-Germain.

Worse was to follow this season as defeat by AEK Athens saw Celtic fall at the third of four qualifying rounds just to make the Champions League group stage, and elimination to Valencia last week saw the Scottish champions crash out in the last 32 of the Europa League for a second straight season.

Rodgers can point to a limited budget as justification for his failure to leave a European mark.

His relationship with Lawwell was strained by Rodgers's public criticism of the club's lack of spending last summer despite Celtic boasting cash reserves of £30 million.

Rodgers contributed to building that fortune with Champions League qualification for his first two seasons and the development of the likes of Moussa Dembele, who also sought pastures new at Lyon to become Celtic's record sale at £20 million in August.

Celtic already seemed to be planning for life after Rodgers with a series of six-month loan deals in January designed to see them over the line in the league this season before a thorough reassessment in the summer.

Lawwell has turned to a safe pair of hands to try and see that job through with Neil Lennon returning as caretaker manager until the end of the campaign for his second spell in charge.

As a player, Lennon followed Martin O'Neill north from Leicester to Celtic when the lure of trophies, big crowds and European football outweighed the glamour of the Premier League.

Rodgers's departure shows how times have changed and Celtic face an increasingly hard battle to remain a big fish in such a small pond.

 

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