Brendan Rodgers demands 'quality' signings after Celtic exit Europe… with £4m Portuguese winger Tiago Araujo a January target
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Brendan Rodgers demands 'quality' signings after Celtic exit Europe… with £4m Portuguese winger Tiago Araujo a January target

Dec 26, 2023

Brendan Rodgers admitted he desperately needed to add more quality to his squad after Celtic’s defeat to Lazio ended their interest in Europe for another season.

The Parkhead side required a win in the Stadio Olimpico just to stay in the hunt for third place in Group E.

However, two late goals in three minutes from substitute Ciro Immobile extended their lamentable winless run in the competition to 15 games and left Scotland’s champions cast adrift at the bottom of the section, with just one point from five

Celtic were awarded a penalty in the third minute of added time for a push on substitute Oh Hyeon-gyu inside the box before it was overturned in the wake of VAR intervening and referee Halil Umut Meler being sent to the pitchside monitor for another look.

Admitting the need for more quality is now ‘glaring’, Rodgers wants to do a deal for £4million-rated left-sided Portuguese player Tiago Araujo in the January window.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers wants to add more quality to his squad after European exit

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers wants to add more quality to his squad after European exit

A former Benfica B team-mate of ex-Hoops winger Jota and current loanee Paulo Bernardo, the 22-year-old signed for Estoril at the start of the season.

Capable of playing left-back and on the wing, Mail Sport understands the Under-21 international is a target the club are likely to pursue.

‘We want to bring in quality, especially at the top end of the field,’ said Rodgers after the defeat. ‘So that’s hopefully something that we can hope to resolve in the next couple of windows.

‘The players have gained more experience at this level and they have shown that they can compete in a lot of the games.

‘We need to add quality. That’s the glaring thing that stands out within the squad. If we can have players available and add to that then we can go again and push forward.’

A wretched record against Europe’s elite worsened when Celtic, chasing a late winner, conceded two goals to Immobile in the 82nd and 85th minutes.

Bottom of the group with just one point from their five games, an undeterred Rodgers believes his young squad will learn lessons from the experience.

‘It’s important for us to be in this competition,’ he continued. ‘People will look at it and say: “Well, you’ve only got one point and you struggle”. But it’s still important for us as a club to be there, to help players develop and grow and look to achieve.

Substitute Ciro Immobile bagged a late brace to send Lazio into the last 16

Substitute Ciro Immobile bagged a late brace to send Lazio into the last 16

‘So, yes, we will learn from this for sure. The result was very disappointing.

‘First half, we were too safe. Although we kept the ball, I feel we needed to go and press the game and we didn’t

‘Second half, we were much better. We pressed the game and we managed the game well. We were in the ascendancy.

‘Maybe the last 20 minutes, we were the team who maybe looked like we could go on and get the result. We gave away two poor goals. First one, we are in a great position where are working the ball up the pitch, we lose possession and never recovered our shape.

‘They got a bit of luck with the deflection. So that was tough to take late on and, obviously, the second goal we need to be stronger and better.’

Rodgers (right) was missing key players Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda, Liel Abada and Luis Palma, and handed James Forrest his first start in the Champions League since 2020.

Bernardo was also named in a three-man midfield, with Celtic dominating possession in the second half before Immobile took advantage of a huge deflection off Liam Scales to strike the opener.

‘We’ve been hampered with our squad a little bit,’ said Rodgers.

Celtic forward Kyogo Furuhashi fired inches past the far post after the interval

Celtic forward Kyogo Furuhashi fired inches past the far post after the interval

‘But the players that have been playing have been giving everything. The effort and commitment was there.’

Hopes of some late consolation were sunk when the Turkish referee awarded Celtic a penalty in added time for a shove on Oh — then changed his mind after a VAR review.

‘That’s the wee bit where you need the breaks,’ said Rodgers.

‘Even though it would have been a consolation, it would still have been nice to get the reward for the effort.

‘But definitely, in the competition throughout, whether it has been sendings-off or whatever, we just never got the breaks.’

Celtic management and players are scheduled to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican this morning before flying home to Scotland.

Hundreds of the 4,000 travelling fans with tickets were locked out of the Stadio Olimpico before kick-off after rigorous stadium entry checks.

Determined to give supporters their first win in the competition since 2017 in the final group game against Feyenoord at Parkhead on December 13, Rodgers admitted: ‘We want to finish on a high and to win in front of our own supporters.

Hyunjan Yang spurned a glorious opportunity to put Celtic ahead in the second-half

Hyunjan Yang spurned a glorious opportunity to put Celtic ahead in the second-half

‘Our supporters have been incredible coming all around Europe and they haven’t seen us winning.

‘So, we would love to be able to give them that victory and finish off with a positive result against Feyenoord.’

Meanwhile, both Lazio and Celtic face disciplinary action from UEFA after home and away fans lobbed lit flares back and forward over a fence before kick-off last night.

Lazio ultras also displayed an offensive banner inside the stadium during the match.

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