Brendan Rodgers And The European Football Question Mark

Brendan Rodgers was an exceptional Celtic manager, who won seven out of seven trophies and guided us to an Invincible Treble. He also qualified for the Champions League in consecutive seasons and played a good brand of football in the first two seasons, before things got a bit stale and became possession obsessed in the final year.

In the main group stages of Europe, he had very mixed results with Celtic. On one hand, he gave us one of the very best ever European nights at Celtic Park with the 3-3 draw against high flying Man City and the 1-1 draw at the Etihad; while he also gave us an away win at Anderlecht in some style. On the other hand, he oversaw a humiliating home defeat, 5-1 at the hands of PSG, and our worst ever results with two disgraceful drubbings away from home, 7-0 v Barcelona and 7-1 v PSG.

In the first Champions League group, we finished bottom with three draws and three losses. One of those losses was at home against Borussia Monchengladbach, which is the type of game we must win if we are to achieve anything in Europe. Had we done so, then we would have taken third spot and continued in the Europa League after Christmas, then looked to go on a run by beating other teams of similar ilk to Gladbach.

The next season, we did get third by virtue of head to head against Anderlecht due to our great win in Belgium. We lost the other five games however, four of which were lost in very poor fashion. Although, the other defeat, a 2-1 loss at home against Bayern, was something we could be proud of due to our performance. We got that much coveted route to the knockout stages of the Europa League and dreamt of finally going through a few rounds after a superb home performance against Zenit, only to put in a terrible showing in Russia and crash out again after a 3-0 loss.

The third and final campaign with Rodgers in Europe ended in abject failure. Celtic failed to qualify for the Champions League after being unable to overcome the ten men of AEK Athens at home, and then losing 2-1 away. The Europa League group was navigated very fortuitously when whipping boys Rosenberg shocked everyone with a late goal against RB Leipzig. That spared our blushes after losing at home to RB Salzburg, who also beat us away as did Leipzig. Although, we did beat Leipzig at home which was our only convincing performance of the group stage. In the knockouts we drew Valencia, who were a decent side but not insurmountable if you play with a bit of pragmatism and the tactical knowhow to achieve things at that level (just as teams on smaller than our budget have done). We lost 2-0 at home and then played well in Spain, but lost 1-0.

Away from Celtic, Rodgers has a poor European record. At Leicester, in 2021, he crashed out of the Europa League last 32 having been beaten 2-0 on aggregate by Slavia Prague. That was only after getting through a group with AEK Athens, Zorya and Braga in it. Then, the following year he crashed out of the Europa League group and into the Conference League, when his wealthy side were up against Legia Warsaw, Spartak Moscow and Napoli. In the Conference League, the Foxes blitzed Randers, then narrowly overcame Rennes and PSV before Roma knocked them out in the Semi Final. A commendable effort overall.

With Liverpool, Rodgers was knocked out of the Europa League last 32 by Zenit in 2013. He had finished the Europa League group with the same points as Anzhi and Young Boys, six ahead of Udinese. That unimpressive showing was then matched in 2015, when Liverpool finished third in the Champions League group, behind Real Madrid and Basel and only a point ahead of Ludogorets. Rodgers’ team amassed just one win in the group and were battered 3-0 at Anfield by Real Madrid. After dropping into the Europe League knockouts, they were eliminated by Besiktas.

Overall, in eight European campaigns with Liverpool, Celtic and Leicester, Brendan Rodgers has never reached the last 16 of either the Champions League or the Europa League.

He is a great coach of players and a top manager at all domestic levels, but with Celtic having won five trebles in seven years and 11 titles in 12 years, the next step for the club must be to progress in Europe, where we haven’t won a knockout tie since 2004.

With that in mind, I think this is a question mark over bringing Brendan Rodgers back to Celtic.

Liam Kelly


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About Author

Hailing from an Irish background, I grew up on the English south coast with the good fortune to begin watching Celtic during the Martin O'Neill era. I have written four Celtic books since the age of 19: Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support, Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events, Walfrid & The Bould Bhoys: Celtic's Founding Fathers, First Season & Early Stars, and The Holy Grounds of Glasgow Celtic: A Guide To Celtic Landmarks & Sites Of Interest. These were previously sold in Waterstones and official Celtic FC stores, and are now available on Amazon.

1 Comment

  1. He won all the trophies at Celtic when there was no credible opposition, and, we were left with players who had little value.