CHRIS SUTTON has outlined the problems Celtic would encounter if they splashed massive sums of money in the transfer market.
There have been calls for “marquee signings” with Brendan Rodgers’ side getting off to a false start in the Champions League with the 2-0 loss to Feyenoord in Rotterdam on Tuesday.
An inexperienced Hoops line-up, ravaged by injuries to key players such as Cameron Carter-Vickers and Liel Abada, toppled at the first hurdle and, making matters worse, they completed the encounter with only nine men after summer recruits Gustaf Lagerbiekle and Odin Holm were banished in a torrid second-half.
The club’s powerbrokers have become the target from some quarters as their snipers adopt the scattergun approach to criticism.
TESTING TIMES…Brendan Rodgers reflects on Celtic’s performance in Rotterdam.
Sutton, who cost Martin O’Neill £6million when he joined from Chelsea in the summer of 2000, points out: “Quite frankly, I feel the timing of the club’s financial figures just before the opening game of the Champions League group caused a bit of a false narrative.
“It’s perfectly natural for people to see a figure of £72million sitting in Celtic’s bank account and wonder why more wasn’t spent in the summer market.
“Muse over why the club didn’t go and buy a couple of £10million players knowing more group-stage cash was on the way. It’s frustrating for fans, I get it. But, when making such judgements, there has to be an understanding of the modern market and the potential impact it can have on a dressing room.
“Wage offers and demands are off the charts these days. Player value dictates the wages they get paid. Celtic have a successful business model and, if you have to do things football-wise to keep it working correctly, that’s how it has to be.
“Brendan Rodgers said as much when he talked about not being a fantasist.
“Put simply, you can’t sign a £15million player without paying the weekly going rate for a £15million player and there’s the issue right there. Do it with one, you could have an army at the door wanting the same pay.
“Not even with riches in the bank can Celtic sign £15million players because they can’t be paying £60,000-a-week to any individual, so I don’t have an issue with not splashing on fees because it’s more complex than just a fee and the market is crazy.”
GETTING SHIRTY…Luis Palma was pitched in at the start for the opener against Feyenoord.
One-time England international striker Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Bristol City’s Alex Scott to Bournemouth for £20million. Cameron Archer £18.5million to Sheffield United. Manchester City’s Under-21 keeper James Trafford going to Burnley for £15million. Chelsea paid £60million for Romeo Lavia, a development player.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t find gems for £5million or less and polish them up as Celtic have done successfully in their model. But with that approach, it must be done quickly. That’s where the key lies for me in the model.
“If you are going to think about achieving anything in the Champions League, you have to try and get those types in as soon as possible to get them working in a real rhythm before they enter the cauldron. We can all see that didn’t happen.
“The team against Feyenoord hadn’t played once as a unit and that’d be my frustration as a manager. You need time to get it flowing. Listen, you cannot legislate for injuries. You cannot predict losing your first-choice centre-back in Cameron Carter-Vickers, or Maik Nawrocki or Liel Abada.
“But there are some things you can anticipate. I said at the time Carl Starfelt should not have been sold. Not with Carter-Vickers just returning from surgery. It’s forced Gustaf Lagerbiekle to be rushed into the fray without any experienced sidekick and we saw how that worked out in Rotterdam.
“Celtic knew at the beginning of May when they clinched the title that their group stage began in the middle of September.
HEADING FOR A FALL…Odin Holm dives in to tackle Mats Weifer in the challenge that saw the Celt red-carded.
“As soon as Jota headed to Saudi Arabia at the start of July, his replacement should have been in the door. If that guy was always going to be Luis Palma, he should have been signed way before the final week of the window.
“Palma hadn’t started a game before Holland. That’s not a recipe for success.
“Given the background, I think most people saw a game go the way they more or less expected. It’s happened plenty in the past. Start okay, be in the game, then give away a daft goal and things go downhill from there.
“Lagerbiekle and Odin Thiago Holm were both naive when it came to the two red cards. That is what comes with inexperience at that level.”
Sutton added: “Even though they can’t compete transfer-wise with the big guns, that doesn’t mean you give up. Celtic have to try and find other ways within their model to give themselves the best chance against the elite. The team is still in the development stage.
“Superpowers can get away with bedding in signings and gelling set-ups at this stage of the competition.
“But, if clubs at Celtic’s level want to have any chance of really competing, the time for development is the two-and-a-half month period between the start of pre-season and the big kick-off to the Champions League. Not when it’s already started.
“It’s done now. The situation is what it is and Celtic need to start bucking a trend of poor recent results in the competition.”
Rodgers and his players face a second Euro test when Lazio visit Parkhead a week on Wednesday, but before that intriguing confrontation, the champions have more immediate domestic concerns.
The team take on Livingston on the dreaded plastic pitch in West Lothian in the 12.30pm kick-off today and they face Motherwell at Fir Park a week today.
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and best action images from Livingston v Celtic this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.