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Nou Camp nightmare but reality is scary for Celtic

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celtic-fc-logoFor any team a visit to the Nou Camp is a daunting prospect indeed, as the thought of trying to stop the Barca juggernaut can be the stuff of nightmares for even some of the best players around.

On that basis the 6-1 trouncing that Celtic suffered last midweek would appear not be something which should drag the mood of their supporters down but a few days on from the match which culminated the end of their European campaign serious concerns about the strengths and weaknesses of Neil Lennon’s side are beginning to surface.

Pre-match when the teams were announced there was surprise at the Celtic manager’s team selection, particularly surrounding the omissions of Charlie Mulgrew and Kris Commons, two of the most consistent performers in the hoops side this term.

The inclusion of the Finnish internationalist Teemu Pukki also raised some eyebrows as despite scoring on both his debut and first game at Celtic Park, the £3 million splashed out to attract him to Scotland from the Bundesliga looks money thrown down the drain as he struggles to adapt to life as a Celtic player.

Only seven minutes into the game and Gerard Pique set the tone for the night when, unmarked in the box, he slammed the ball past Fraser Foster and the tension and anxiety of the travelling support increased as fears of a thrashing increased.

Strikes from Pedro and Neymar left Neil Lennon with the unwanted task of attempting to lift spirits and also quickly implement a tactical structure designed to suffocate the tika taka play of their illustrious opponents with Mulgrew introduced for the hapless Pukki.

But only three minutes into the second half and the little Brazilian genius that is Neymar had notched another making it 4-0 as the Celtic team appeared to lose confidence in each other enabling the Barca players the space and time to spray the ball around the park in such a manner at times it appeared we were witnessing a training match.

Neymar bagged his inevitable hat trick in the 58th minute before Tello rounded up the scoring for the hosts who could easily have found the net again if they really had too and though the defence went to sleep in the final minutes allowing Georgios Samaras a free header this was no consolation, Celtic were well and truly stuffed.

Afterwards Neil Lennon was quick to highlight the fact that despite substantial financial investment to their squads the likes of Shakthar Donetsk and Napoli had also failed in progressing to the last 16 but it’s perhaps wise that he addresses the clubs transfer policy.

Losing Kelvin Wilson, Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper to the riches of the English game robbed Lennon of three of his better performers, but there really can be no debate the money raised from these sales was squandered.

£4 million was spent on replacing Hooper with the likes of Pukki and Amido Balde, two players who frankly have been failures so the onus on scoring goals has remained with the likes of Samaras and Anthony Stokes though Lennon appears to be consistently reluctant to play the Republic of Ireland frontman in the bigger games.

Israeli international Nir Biton was recruited to replace Wanyama but the early evidence suggests Celtic will do well to land even half the amount they landed when the big Kenyan swapped Parkhead for Southampton if Biton turns out to be a decent player.

Dutchman Virgil Van Diyk looks like a decent acquisition but fellow new bhoys Steven Mouyokolo [long term injury]and Derk Boerrigter have failed to set the heather on fire at all and this scattergun approach to signings where Celtic seem determined to spend decent money on average players from all quarters of the globe appears to be a misguided policy.

In the last few years there have been notable successful purchases in the transfer market, Hooper, Forster, Izaguirre and Ki Sung Yueng have all proven to be successes but the collective wisdom of both Lennon and chief scout John Park must be questioned when you consider some of the mediocrity that has arrived in the east end of Glasgow.

Efe Ambrose, Lassad Nouioui, Tom Rogic, Miku, Mo Bangura, the list of poor signings is a definite black mark against Lennon’s abilities at identifying quality players and is coming home to roost.

Despite winning three successive domestic championships, hardly a mean feat when you consider the lack of competition due to the demise of Rangers, many of the Celtic faithful are becoming increasingly frustrated at the fortunes of their club, especially on the European front where the woeful record of a paltry three points from 27 away champions league matches is an embarrassment.

Perhaps the time has come for Celtic to re-examine their philosophy and go back to their roots – trying to nurture their home-grown players which has proven so productive in the past as opposed to trawling around the world scooping up some poor excuses for players.

In recent years only the likes of James Forrest and Aiden McGeady have made the step up from the youth set up.

And unless this situation is addressed and quickly, further humiliating performances such as that against Barcelona will be on the menu for the men in green and white.

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