Lubomir Moravcik – 25 years ago today Celtic signed our ‘Gift from God’

Twenty-five years ago today we signed Lubo, our gift from God…

Lubo Moravcik and Dr Jo

25 years ago today Celtic signed an ‘unknown’ 33 year old Slovakian by the name of Lubomir Moravcik, and it’s fair to say he wasn’t that unknown when he departed four years later. In fact he was one of the most gifted footballers to grace our club as well as the Scottish game.

It was the perfect two fingered salute from the Slovakian who was unfairly but not unsurprisingly ridiculed by the media when he joined the club. Much in the same way the man who signed him was.

“Who is he?” “£300,000 on a unknown 33 year old.”

“He’s just one of doctor Jo’s auld pals” were just some of the comments that were sneered in arrogance aimed at a player none of them had seen play the game.

21/11/98 SPL CELTIC v RANGERS (5-1) CELTIC PARK – Vidar Riseth (left) rushes to congratulate Lubomir Moravcik.

Was it Hugh Keevins who wrote about it being embarrassing that we didn’t sign the former Motherwell and Rangers striker but instead opted for signing a Dud Czech? Lubo quickly proved Keevins completely wrong as usual but even for him this was one almighty gaff.

“I don’t know what I find more laughable; the fact that Celtic cannot find £500,000 from their biscuit tin to sign a proven talent like John Spencer, or the fact that they then spent £300,000 on one of Dr. Jo’s old pals, the unknown Lubomir Moravcik!” Hugh Keevins wrote in Sunday Mail in November 1998.

19 Mar 2000: Mark Viduka and Lubomir Moravcik congratulate Tommy Johnson on scoring during the CIS Insurance Cup Final against Aberdeen at Hampden;. Celtic won the match 2-0. Photo  Michael Cooper /Allsport

Jim Traynor (remember him!) was at the time heading up the sports output at Daily Record and also had a prime time football phone-in on the ever impartial BBC Scotland. He had his say on the player Celtic signed on this day in 1998.

“If anything the signing of Lubomir Moravcik at a cut price has merely caused them further embarrassment.” Traynor said, again quoting from Celtic Wiki.

“Josef Venglos will live to regret his decision to play this unknown Slovakian ahead of Mark Burchill in such a vital Old Firm Game.” Derek Johnstone said, as reported on Celtic Wiki. Lubomir Moravcik scored twice that day as Rangers were destroyed 5-1. The club played U2’s The Sweetest Thing as the happy fans exited the stadium.

Lubo was an experienced international who had played at a World Cup and at the top level in France and Germany, but that didn’t concern the SMSM who were just looking to publish more anti Celtic drivel. But once lubo took to the field, he soon wiped the smirks off their faces. You could tell he and something about him when he made his debut against Dundee on 7 November 1998.

He had the touch and presence of a great player, but it was to be a fortnight later that he properly introduced himself to the Celtic supporters and the Scottish footballing world. Yes it was of course that famous 5-1 game on  21 November 1998. Lubo put in a superb showing scoring two goals. It was indeed the sweetest thing.

9 Nov 2000: Lubo Moravcik of Celtic shoots past David Sommeil of Bordeaux to score during the UEFA Cup Second Round, Second Leg match between Celtic and Bordeaux played at Parkhead. Photo Mark Thompson/ALLSPORT

He would of course spend the next four years wowing the Celtic support. He was a one off. Whether it was trapping the ball with his backside, or scoring wonder goals, his double at Ibrox, everything he did was special. He was an entertainer.

Some say we should have signed him sooner than we did, but the main thing was that we had the privilege of seeing him in a Celtic shirt. He was aptly described as a gift from God, and that he was. Not bad for an unknown 33 year old. Not bad at all.

21 Oct 1999: Lubomir Moravcik of Celtic shoots against Lyon during the UEFA Cup second round first leg match at the Stade Gerland in Lyon, France. Photo Clive Brunskill /Allsport

“My favourite time, my most special time, was at Celtic….They said I was a ‘gift from God’ but it was the opposite – Celtic was a gift from God to me…Celtic is unique.” Lubo Moravcik recalled back in 2015, as reported on Celtic Wiki

“I left the club in 2002 but I haven’t been forgotten. When I am on holiday in Spain, playing golf, the Celtic supporters approach me and ask for a photo or to talk about Celtic. It still amazes me.

“As a kid growing up I wanted to play in the World Cup for my country. I was then lucky to play in an Old Firm game. We beat Rangers 5-1 at Parkhead in 1998 under Dr Venglos. When the Champions League started in 1992 I wanted to play in it for a club. Celtic gave me that opportunity.

Celtic’s Lubo Moravcik (right) celebrates his first goal during the Scottish Premier League match against Rangers at Ibrox

“The most memorable occasion was when I played against Juventus in the Champions League. We won 4-3. Martin O’Neill gave me my first start in that tournament. I made the most of the moment. I was subbed near the end and I will never forget the standing ovation I received from the Celtic supporters. I am very lucky.

“I was never a big goalscorer during my career. I scored some nice ones but there isn’t really one that sticks out for me. It really is hard to choose. I enjoyed setting up my team-mates, whether it was with my right foot or my left foot. I know Henrik Larsson, Chris Sutton and John Hartson appreciated it. That made me feel happy.

“We had great success under Martin. The club had had a difficult couple of years for different reasons but we had good players and he got the best out of us. He transformed Stiliyan Petrov and Johan Mjallby.”

Lubo Moravcik scored

Martin O’Neill certainly appreciated having Lubo in the squad when he arrived at Celtic.

“You wonder where he has been hiding all these years. Lubo is the most-two footed player in Europe, his talent is amazing. His contribution to the Treble-winning team was absolutely immense and I was delighted that he signed for one more season to play in the Champions League.

“He remains one of the most gifted footballers I have ever seen or worked with and considering I played with many excellent players at club and international level, I cannot pay him any greater compliment than that.

Lubo Moravcik (right) and Henrik Larsson pose for a photo prior to the charity match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Henrik s Heroes v Lubo s Legends – Charity Match – Celtic Park . Photo Jeff Holmes

“In only a short period of time at Celtic Park he has become as big a hero as any of the Lisbon Lions of 1967. He must have done something special to have warranted such acclaim.” Martin O’Neill said in 2015, again from the wonderful Celtic Wiki.

Just an Ordinary Bhoy

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About Author

An ordinary everyday Celtic supporters hailing and still residing in Govan in the shadows of the enemy. I’m a season ticket holder. I Witnessed my first Celtic game in 1988 and have attended when I can ever since. Growing up in the 90s I witnessed Celtic at their lowest, and now appreciate the historic success we enjoy today. I enjoy writing about this wonderful football club and hopefully will continue to do so. I’ve always been a keen writer and initially started this a hobby. My ambition is to one day become as good an author as my fellow Celtic Star colleagues.

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