So here we are again. Another European night, another European defeat. Tony Mowbray is rightly furious with his under-performing players and if I was one of them I’d certainly be fearing for my future at the club. Indeed, earlier this week I encouraged him to wield the axe in January as there are no doubts that the squad contains far too many passengers.

But how have we declined so drastically? After all, in the last 4 and a half years, we have beaten Manchester United, Benfica, Villareal, Shakhtar Donetsk and AC Milan in European games. However, I don’t even think Lincoln City would fear a trip to Celtic Park right now.

We have certainly lost some quality players in the last few years. Shunsuke Nakamura had more quality than most, and we are definitely missing his creativity this year. Then Paul Hartley was always solid for European games, and Jiri Jarosik had bags of European experience, and in my opionion always saved his best Celtic performances for Champions League nights. We then had a big Dutch international at the top of his game in Jan Venegoor of Hesselink (with the clear exception of last year, when we’d have been better off picking a turd in a box) and as much as this may be unpopular, Kenny Miller put in a couple of big performances in his single year at Parkhead.

All 5 of these players had something which our squad now lacks, which is European and International experience. I put the blame for these type of players not being replaced solely at the feet of the board. No side can afford to lose that amount of international players, so a decline in quality is inevitable. The board should be aware of this, and as a result a bigger budget should be given to the manager. After all, 3 of these players were lost this summer alone. Mr Lawwell is always happy to tell us we are nearly ‘debt free’. We may well be, but we’re also the poorest Celtic side in the last 15 years. Even John Barnes’ team had more quality than we do now (what we’d give for a Berkovic, Petrov, Viduka or Moravcik in this team, not to mention a certain legendary Swedish striker).

However, we also need to completely overhaul our scouting network. It’s painfully obvious that we are unable to compete with the big clubs in England anymore, but we should be able to bring in good young players from around the world for nominal fees. I’ve mentioned PSV in a previous blog and I think we need to follow in their footsteps of selling best players for massive profits and investing those profits back into the playing team. They have become a conveyor belt for quality players, and in leagues like ours that philosophy MUST be adopted.

As a result, when we receive offers for McGeady in January I’m sorry to say if I was Mogga I’d accept them, providing I had assurances from the board I’d be given every single penny of the fee to reinvest. An £8m or £10m offer, along with the other £2-£3m he has left of this year’s highly publicised £7m budget would allow Mowbray to bring in 3 or 4 quality players that will completely revitalise our squad.

That alone should allow Mogga to go to his favoured 4-3-3, and perhaps some of his promised “attacking, attractive football” will come to the fore.

It is only with this reinvestment that we can look towards a more succesful European campaign next term. If we don’t, our deterioration will intensify until our situation becomes irreversible, and that prospect alone strikes terror into the heart of Celtic fans everywhere.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned, Mr Lawwell.

We often hear about the lack of funds in the Scottish game, and how this has left the SPL in the financial wilderness. Just this summer, the TV revenue invested in Scotland has roughly halved when Setanta went the way of the Titanic, and the difference in class was there for all to see when Arsenal spanked us all over the park in the qualifier. But is money the be-all-and-end-all?

Arsene Wenger was lucky to be able to rest two of his stars last Wednesday, in Andrei Arshavin and Robin Van Persie. Yet even without this pair, and the likes of Nasri, Rosicky and Fabregas, it was a stroll for the Gunners.

After a little glance at the BBC 606 site, I see that most Arsenal fans think their side wasn’t particularly expensive, coming in at a combined total of about £33m. Celtic, on the other hand fielded pretty much their strongest side, with the exception of million pound midfielder Barry Robson. Celtic’s full-strength side had a value of about £17m, or the price of Arshavin. You see where I’m going here don’t you? Just so you can see my figures, I’ve included the teams below, and the values I believe were paid. (If I’ve got anybody a million or so off, I apologise, but keep looking at the bigger picture)

Almunia- 1.5m
Sagna- £6m
Gallas- free
Vermaelen – £10m
Clichy- 250k
Song- 2m
Diaby- 3m
Denilson- 2m
Eboue- 200k
Eduardo- 8m
Bendtner- free

Overall-32.95m

Boruc- 1m
Hinkel- 1.5
Caldwell- free
Loovens- 2.5
Fox- 1mil
McGeady-home grown
Brown-4.4m
Donati-2m
Maloney-home grown
McDonald-750k
Fortune-3.8m

Overall- 16.95m

So that’s it eh? Celtic fans should just accept that European progress is now impossible and forget completely about the Champions League? Sorry, I don’t buy it.

Surely the answer here is our scouting network. If clubs like PSV can make the Semi finals, as they did in 2005, then why can’t we? PSV spend pretty much nothing on transfers, but sell players players on to the bigger leagues and then reinvest the profits. If we use PSV as an example, here’s a list of their players over the last few years, most of whom were signed for nothing or almost nothing….

Ronaldo (the original one, the one with a minge on his head, not the ‘winker’), Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Jaap Stam, Arjen Robben, Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Mateja Kezman.

Compare that with some recent Celtic players and you’ll see my point. Surely a club of Celtic’s stature should have a scouting network that can uncover some similar gems? And if not, somebody needs to be sacked.

PSV aren’t alone. While Arsenal were struggling to make ‘marquee signings’, they were able to sign the likes of Adebayor for £3m, and sell him for £25m!

Now I accept my philosophy would make us a selling club, but it’s only by adopting this attitude that we’ll be able to generate the kind of money and with that, any chance of any real European success. Controversial, yes, but sadly, I think it’s essential.