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England ENG 1

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Comment: Celtic's domestic dominance is sealed and Linfield aren't far behind


By Adam McKendry

As Celtic waltzed into the Champions League group stages, albeit a little clumsily in Astana, you could hear an audible groan from the rest of Scottish football.

The £30million bonus that the Glaswegians received when the final whistle blew was a killer blow to every other Scottish club. The team with the biggest budget in the country just had it increased even more.

Some argue that Celtic's success is Scotland's gain, and there are arguments for it such as recognition as a footballing nation and the trickle-down cash flow from the Scottish FA.

But the recognition goes almost solely to Celtic themselves, and the monetary gain for the Bhoys is vastly superior to what any other team will get.

And that was even before the draw for the group stages.

PSG and Bayern Munich are about to come to Glasgow. Those are guaranteed sell-outs already. One would imagine the Anderlecht tie will also see Parkhead packed out.

They may not make it any further than their group of death, but the cash flow will make up for that. Regroup, identify a few January and summer transfer window targets and get ready for another crack at it next year.

That's what it has become as far as the rest of the Scottish Premiership is concerned.

Celtic have now effectively eclipsed Scotland - when Brendan Rodgers discusses his transfer dealings, he doesn't talk in the context of winning the league. He talks in the context of being competitive in Europe.

No other team in Scotland has a transfer or wage budget remotely close to compiling a first team to contest a top-class European tie, let alone a squad that Celtic are trying to assemble.

It's got to that stage: Celtic can talk about it all they want, but Scotland is no longer a challenge to them. It's now all about Europe.

Where Brendan Rodgers has done nothing short of an outstanding job at Parkhead - leading a Scottish side to the Champions League group stages two years in a row is exemplary - he's leaving the rest of the league languishing in their wake.

Scottish football is not the same as the English Premier League where a tight-knit first team can slip through the cracks like Leicester did.

Scottish football is about who can flex their financial muscle and invest in the deepest squad, something which Celtic have been able to do with regularity in the professional era.

That's not to say Rodgers' signings haven't been astute. But the more important aspect of their success has been the ability to replace like for like in a squad brimming with talent. There's never a dip in performance, and now they're looking to improve even further.

Long gone are the days of the Old Firm battling for the title. And, if Celtic's financial dominance isn't stopped, it could be a long time before anyone challenges them again.

More worryingly, there are parallels within the Irish League.

While we don't know exactly how much Linfield received for their qualifier with Celtic, it was something in the ballpark of £1million - a relative fortune for an Irish League club.

Not only that but they're set to gain even further should Paul Smyth indeed move. While it won't be for another £1million, as David Healy cheekily suggested, he will command an imposing six figure sum from QPR.

Even more so than in Scotland, success in the Irish League relies upon a deep squad as much as quality, and being able to spend more freely, like the Blues are now able to, aids them immensely.

A successful Irish League needs the front runners closely challenged and while Crusaders will provide that this year, if Linfield can flash the cash and make some smart signings, next season could be a foregone conclusion.

It's neither Linfield nor Celtic's fault that they are in this position, if anything they should be commended that they are.

But their respective leagues are going to suffer because of it.

Belfast Telegraph

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