Celtic won Scottish Premiership title from Rangers; Top-flight success adds to League Cup win under Ange Postecoglou in his first season as manager; Celtic signed 17 players across two windows as the Australian rebuilt the squad
Saturday 14 May 2022 12:14, UK
Ange Postecoglou's first year at Celtic has been nothing short of a miracle.
Many people had completely written off the Bhoys' chances of even mounting a credible title challenge this season.
With the size of the rebuild, the off-field changes and supporter unrest - the Australian boss has worked wonders in Glasgow.
The Hoops won the Scottish Premiership and League Cup and have secured Champions League group stage football (and the £40m riches that come with it) for next season.
Postecoglou has always insisted that this is the first stage of his rebuild, so it's little wonder that fans are excited at what might come next.
Here, we analyse some of the things Celtic and Postecoglou will be looking at - and targeting - in the summer.
There's a real hunger and desire among the Celtic support for the team to do something different in Europe - it's been quite similar for some time now.
There is no doubt that Celtic will have looked on at Rangers' Europa League run in envy - thinking 'that could've been us'.
Celtic's last win in a European knockout tie came 18 years ago - a two-legged victory over Barcelona in 2004, courtesy of some early David Marshall heroics.
It will soon be 10 years since the club reached the last 16 of the Champions League, beating Barcelona (again) along the way, under Neil Lennon.
Since then, the club have only played three times in the Champions League group stages. In the Europa League, they've either gone out in the group stages or last 32. And last season, Celtic exited the Europa Conference League at the knockout round play-off stage.
Rangers have shown over the last few years that having a run in Europe beyond February is doable and Celtic need to improve on this.
It may be harder this season, though, starting off in the Champions League groups - but what better way to make an impact in Europe?
Champions League football will be back at Celtic Park. Europe's elite will be walking out of the tunnel in the East End of Glasgow to a wall of noise that is unrivalled - especially when the anthem plays out.
The fans will impress, no doubt, but the challenge is for the players to use that energy in the stadium to go toe-to-toe with the best in world football.
Postecoglou is unlikely to shift from his high intensity, combative style of football, which could provide some fascinating and high-scoring games again in Europe for Celtic.
Last season Celtic finished their Europa League group on nine points, scoring 13 goals (fourth highest) and conceding 15 (highest). There was a 4-3 and three 3-2 scorelines involving the Scottish side - no shortage of entertainment.
The main target will be to - at the very least - stay in Europe beyond Christmas. And that requires at least finishing third. And if they do drop down into the Europa League knockout play-offs, they should be looking to make the last 16 of that competition. That would show progress.
Celtic find themselves in a strong position regarding contracts - only one is due to expire in the summer and that is Karomoko Dembele's.
There's a willingness to keep the 19-year-old winger at the club, but Postecoglou said in March that a new contract will only be offered if Dembele sees his future at Celtic.
While it would be a shame if the Hoops lost Dembele after all the hype, it wouldn't be a disaster.
Ahead of the summer, five first-team players were entering the last year of their contracts.
Celtic have already announced that James Forrest has extended his deal until the summer of 2025, while Tom Rogic and Nir Bitton will be leaving the club this summer, despite having a year left on their deals.
The Hoops were keen to offer Rogic and Bitton new deals beyond their expiry dates, but both players wanted to seek a new challenge this summer. Having been such long-term servants for the club, those wishes were very much respected.
That leaves just a couple of players to mull over in the next few months:
Christopher Jullien - the big-money signing has been out injured for around a year and is yet to show any signs that he's ready to start every week for Celtic. The Frenchman has a big pre-season coming up to prove he's still worth a place in the squad. But if a decent bid comes in for Jullien, Celtic will likely consider selling. A decision on his future will be made this summer.
Boli Bolingoli - Celtic have been trying to offload the left-back ever since he broke coronavirus rules in August 2020. They didn't accept a £2.5m loan with option-to-buy offer from Amiens, while their investigations into his Spain trip were ongoing. He did join FC Ufa on loan a few months ago, but that was terminated following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The Hoops will be looking to move him on permanently this summer, if they can.
David Turnbull - he's not out of contract until the summer of 2024, but the Hoops will want to tie up the midfielder on a new deal next season.
The priority for Celtic will be to sign Jota and Cameron Carter-Vickers. Celtic want both players and started initial talks on making their loan deals permanent back in January. It has gone quiet on that front since, as the Hoops focussed on matters on the field.
Both deals would require a fee of £6m which was agreed with parent clubs Benfica and Spurs, respectively.
With roughly £40m guaranteed from the Champions League, fans will feel that £12m is not that big an outlay on the duo, who have been a huge success for Postecoglou's side this season.
The Bhoys will be looking to strengthen the defence this summer, with a left-back and centre-back wanted.
Celtic are already in talks to sign Hammarby left-back Mohanad Jeahze, with the player wanting to move to the Scottish champions.
Another striker wouldn't go amiss too, unless Albian Ajeti bursts back onto the scene in pre-season and if Daizen Maeda is seen as a striker long-term.
Postecoglou's record for finding gems in untapped markets has been exceptional so far. As well as the Japanese and Australian leagues, the Hoops have been keeping a close eye on top talents in South Korea and Iran too.
Outgoings will also be a priority at the start of the window, to make room for additional quality in the squad.
Big decisions will have to be made on the fringe players such as Vasilis Barkas, Boli Bolingoli, Osaze Urhoghide, Stephen Welsh, Ismaila Soro, Mikey Johnston and Albian Ajeti.
Barkas was subject of interest from IFK Goteborg in January, as well as Turkish clubs - and Celtic will listen to offers on the Greek keeper.
Urhoghide is on loan at KV Oostende and the Belgian club have an option to buy.
Celtic knocked back a loan with option-to-buy bid for Stephen Welsh from Udinese, with the Italians still keen on the defender.
The Hoops are open to doing a deal for Soro, who has been attracting interest from clubs in Israel and the USA.
Mikey Johnston has shown signs of promise for a few years now, but injuries and inconsistencies have set his career back at Parkhead. At 23, he needs to be playing regular football, so Celtic may look to loan him out to another Premiership club.
Albian Ajeti looks to be completely out of the picture and not in Postecoglou's plans. It's understood that he would be open to a move away from Glasgow after failing to settle.
Celtic's academy has produced some top talent in recent history - the likes of Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Anthony Ralston and Stephen Welsh are all success stories.
However, more recently the club have been losing highly-rated youngsters to clubs in England and Germany - many before they've even kicked a ball for the first team.
Josh Adam left for Man City, Liam Hughes and Ben Doak are now at Liverpool, Liam Morrison and Barry Hepburn went to Bayern Munich and Vincent Angelini signed for Watford.
It's not an immediate problem but more of a worrying trend that will need to be nipped in the bud.
The supporters love nothing more than youth getting a chance and excelling for the club. They will be hoping the next crop of promising talents will stay - and make their mark in the first team.
Celtic need to make sure they are not too heavily-reliant on Postecoglou, or he will become impossible to replace.
While the 56-year-old is impressing as manager of the club - and in full control of the football department - there has to be a sustainable long-term future beyond him.
In February last year, Sky Sports News revealed that Celtic were looking at ways to restructure and modernise the football department, which included a new role of a sporting director - someone who would be there for a long time and help set targets, pick managers among other things.
Had Eddie Howe's move materialised it's likely that he would've been a head coach, with the club appointing a sporting director as well.
Peter Lawwell's successor, Dom McKay, said that installing a more European model into the structure of the club was his primary ambition.
He'd held talks with a number of candidates in the summer, including Manchester City's Football Partnerships and Pathways Manager Fergal Harkin. But a club source said they did not offer the job to anyone. Harkin is now set to become sporting director at Standard Liege.
But after McKay left prematurely for "personal reasons" in September last year, these plans have not materialised.
New CEO Michael Nicholson has been happy to allow Postecoglou to have a more traditional role with complete control of the football department, including transfers, and this has proved to be a success.
He will get help from new head of recruitment Mark Lawwell, but it is not the big restructure and modernisation that the club were looking to do last year.
So, what happens after Postecoglou? Many modern managers don't operate in this way and it's something Celtic will need to be aware of to ensure a smooth transition for whenever the time comes that Ange leaves.