Several key figures past and present with Barcelona have accused Celtic of playing “anti-football,” a description that didn’t sit too well with manager Neil Lennon ahead of today’s Champions League match between the two sides.
Xavi and former Barca player Bernd Schuster both made the comments, with the latter believing Celtic doesn’t even deserve to be in the competition.
It’s easy for a superb squad like Barcelona to pass judgement. But given Celtic’s financial and talent restrictions, the remarks appear harsh and undeserved. Celtic after all is not blessed with the same financial muscle as their opponents.
The average Barcelona player makes roughly $7.9 million a year, while the average Celtic player makes only $1.6 million, nearly seven times less.
Celtic also doesn’t have the type of options at their disposal when it comes to toying with their players and formations. Not every team has a Xavi and Iniesta that can dictate the midfield regardless of the opposition. Or the highest scoring European footballer and arguably the world’s best player at the moment, Lionel Messi. Or one of the best youth academies in the world that is renowned for giving birth to a slew of talented players, including the the trio mentioned above as well as Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas (until his late teens at least), Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, and Carles Puyol. Not to mention, that some of these players are also reigning World Cup and European Champions.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but given the tools available to the Scottish side, their resilience in defense is something to be admired. Celtic employ this system out of necessity; it’s how a club with limited resources was able to earn a 3-2 victory over Spartak Moscow last month.
Despite the label, Lennon says his formation is a reflection of his team’s abilities and his opponents strengths and skills.
“We never set out to be defensive, we try to have a realistic game plan.”
“Barcelona force you to play that way, you don’t go out and play that way. They’ve put better teams with better plays on the back foot on a regular basis.”
Lennon raises an important point. What choice does a team like Celtic have against a talented squad like Barcelona?