A Celtic Champions League Select

The excellent form of Reo Hatate has been discussed at length on A Celtic State of Mind in recent weeks with the Japanese midfielder playing an integral role in Celtic’s season so far.

A few weeks ago on the Aberdeen post-match pod, Paul John Dykes raised the discussion topic that Hatate is now showing the class of a Champions League level player and not far from joining the ranks of players like Virgil van Dijk who have genuinely been of a Champions League level while gracing the Celtic jersey.

Some very talented players have pulled the Hoops on over the past decade, although sadly not all at the same time.  However, we’ve allowed ourselves a moments indulgence and let our imaginations wander, putting together a Celtic Champions League Level All-Stars side from the past decade.

We think this side could have made quite an impression on the Champions League. Let us know if you agree with our selections.

Formation 4-3-3

GK – Fraser Forster

La Gran Muralla spent a total of 5 season’s at Celtic Park between 2010 and 2020.  Forster’s first two seasons came via loan spells from Newcastle before making the move permanent in 2012.  After 5 years away, he returned for the 9-in-a-row season.

The giant stopper is best remembered for his world-class performance against Barcelona, in Celtic’s famous 2-1 victory in November 2012 that earned him the Gran Muralla moniker.  Similar high-level performances against the likes of Lazio and Rangers also helped endear the big man to those of a Celtic state of mind.

RB – Mikael Lustig

Solid and dependable, the Swede was every inch a fans player.

Lustig brough balance to the right hand side of the pitch, matching defensive qualities with a desire to get forward and support the attack.  At no time was this better exemplified than his stunning solo goal at Ibrox during the Invincibles season.

And let’s face it, no on wears a PC’s hat quite like Mikael Lustig.

CB – Virgil van Dijk

From the very first moment van Dijk pulled on a Celtic jersey his class was there for all to see; with Virgil it was always going to be a case of “enjoy him while he’s here.”

Yes, there were rough edges to his game – that how he ended up with us – but over time those edges were smoothed and a diamond revealed.  Composed and commanding on the ball, van Dijk had the attributes to play at the very top.

It was Celtic’s inability to match those ambitions, and a defeat in Champions League qualifying to Malmo, that sped up his departure to Southampton in 2015.

CB – Cameron Carter-Vickers

A member of the current team, Carter-Vickers has shown the potential to be a future Champions League level player.

Strong in the air and a good reader of the game, CCV has become the fulcrum of the Celtic defence over the past 18 months.  A period during which the American was exposed to European football for the first time.

At 25 years of age, there is still time and room for improvement in Carter-Vickers game, and if he continues to progress on his current trajectory, he could yet become the Champions League level player he is threatening to become.

LB – Kieran Tierney

An Academy graduate, Tierney lived the dream and won everything there was to win in Scotland in his time at Celtic.  Sadly, as with others on this list, Celtic could not match the players European ambitions – not to mention financial incentives from elsewhere – leading Tierney to leave Celtic in 2019.

A dynamic, full throttle, modern full back, Tierney was another in the “he had it all” category of player.  Strong and committed in the tackle, direct in attack with a wicked cross and venomous shot, Tierney was the complete full back.

Celtic’s inability to retain his services is possibly the one that hurts the most given Tierney’s affiliation and love for the club.

DCM – Callum McGregor

Like Tierney, McGregor is an Academy graduate.  Unlike Tierney, the Skipper has not been lured away by the riches of the English Premiership; and how thankful we all are for that.

The metronome in midfield, McGregor is the man who makes Celtic tick, and so high is high performance level that excellent is viewed as standard.

McGregor will be the next player to make the exclusive 500 club at Celtic. What more needs to be said about the man.

CM – Reo Hatate

The man who sparked the whole conversation.  Hatate is an extremely talented midfielder, capable of beautiful moments of football.

A relative new comer to the European game, there have been moments in games that have passed Hatate by.  However, there have also been moments of brilliance and signs of week-on-week improvements.

Like Carter-Vickers, should Hatate continue to progress at his current rate, then the sky is the limit.

CM – Victor Wanyama

Wanyama spent two seasons at Celtic between 2011 and 2013, during which time, the Kenyan became a cult hero at Celtic Park with his dominant midfield performances.  Scoring the opening goal in the 2-1 Champions League victory against Barcelona didn’t do him any harm either.

A man mountain in midfield, Wanyama was so much more than just a physical presence, his ability on the ball often undervalued.

Wanyama took the well-trodden path to Southampton in 2013 before making a move to Tottenham 3 years later where injuries would rob Tottenham and Wanyama of his best years.

RW – James Forrest

With 20 major honours to his name at the age of just 31, James Forrest is undoubtedly a Celtic legend.

The winger has shown great resilience over the course of his career and played a vital role in securing the clubs second 9-in-a-row.

Scorer and creator of over 200 Celtic goals, Forrest’s contribution over the years has been phenomenal

LW – Kyogo Furuhashi

A slight shoe-horning to get him in the team, Kyogo is another of the current crop who has the ability to play at the highest level.

The forwards off the ball movement is outstanding and his overall play reminiscent of a certain Henrik Larsson.

Yes, Kyogo does miss chances and that can be frustrating. However, as with all good strikers, Kyogo dusts himself down and gets into position for the next chance – which he invariable scores.  Just ask Rangers about that.

CF – Moussa Dembele

Arriving as a prodigious talent at the beginning of the Rodgers era, Dembele’s game was marked with a ruthlessness that went beyond his tender years.

Scoring hat-tricks against Rangers, last minute penalties in Champions League qualifying, and stunning over head kicks against some of the most expensively assembled sides in Europe was just Dembele doing Dembele things.

With burgeoning partnership with fellow French striker Odsonne Edouard blossoming, things turned sour for Moussa at Celtic. He left swiftly for Lyon in the summer of 2018, but the memories of thoughts of what might have been still linger.

Honourable Mentions:

Scott Brown; Tom Rogic, Odsonne Edouard, Scott Sinclair, Dedryck Boyata

Leave a Reply