PERHAPS if Celtic had Jackie Dziekanowski playing for them against Bayer Leverkusen last night the score-line might have been different. In 1989 Jackie scored four in a never-to-be-forgotten 5-4 win against Partizan Belgrade in the old European Cup Winners Cup. The Yugoslavs’ last-minute strike was enough to send them through to the next round on the away-goals rule.

At the end of the game, those of us who were there weren’t quite sure whether we should cheer or vent our frustration at the failure to see out the last few minutes safely. Most of us just decided to applaud: we’d been entertained; Celtic had played well and we’d witnessed a feat by our big, daft Polish striker that hasn’t since been matched.

This was the first time that Celtic had lost four goals at home in a European match, the most any visiting team had ever scored against us at Parkhead. By then, Celtic had been playing in European competition for 27 years and faced such as Inter Milan, Liverpool, AC Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Ajax and Juventus. Partizan ought to have been proud of their feat.

It may seem something of a stretch to compare defeat in that game to last night’s 4-0 hammering by the team who currently sit neck and next with Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga. But it’s not really. Celtic created just as many clear-cut chances against Bayer Leverkusen as they’d had done against Partizan.

READ MORE: Detailed Celtic player ratings as Kyogo return fails to mask defensive calamities against Leverkusen

Like Celtic, Partizan were another of Europe’s grand old clubs whose reputation would soon begin to recede with the rise of Big Capital during the next decade. We had Lisbon in ’67 and Partizan had Brussels in ’66 when they became the first team from an eastern bloc country to reach the European Cup final. They were to be beaten 2-1 by the mighty Real Madrid, but simply to have reached that final and performed so well against the greatest club side on the planet was a feat comparable to the Lisbon Lions’.

Celtic’s meeting with Partizan offers us some context within which to place the heavy defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. Before the end of 2022 Celtic will have been playing for 60 years in European competition. If you were to split our European history roughly into two periods of almost 30 years then the Partizan match could be said to have marked the end of the first part.

Some startling statistics demonstrate why both of these eras seem to have existed in different centuries rather than decades. Between 1962 and our first European game against Valencia and 1991 Celtic lost a mere five matches at home. In the three decades since we’ve been beaten 33 times at Parkhead in European competition.

In those first three decades Celtic conceded barely 40 goals at home. In the next three decades we conceded more than three times that amount. Certainly, you need to factor in several distinctive characteristics that help define these numbers. For starters and by dint of the myriad qualifiers clubs from outside the big five corporate leagues must play before reaching the group stages Celtic have played significantly more matches between 1992 and 2021 than in the 30 years from 1962. Yet, it’s not unreasonable to think that Celtic ’62-’91 would still not have lost many more games at home in Europe if they’d encountered a heavier match-day schedule.

The other major factor, of course, has been the emergence of a corporate super class of clubs drawn from the richest five leagues in Europe: England, Germany, Italy, Spain and France. Thus, unremarkable clubs with modest histories such as Chelsea, Manchester City and Paris St Germain delude themselves that they are great when the rest of us know they would be nothing without the billions of pounds poured into them by oligarchs and small nation-states.

READ MORE: Celtic's electricity falters when tested and going behind feels irreversible - Andy Bargh

I’ve thought about this a lot in recent years: could I derive as much pleasure from Celtic success built on the back of a fortune provided by a Russian oil magnate or an Arab conglomerate who’d benefited from regimes with questionable human rights records?

Yet, there was something in the debris of last night that gave me hope. For the first time in many years, I saw a Celtic side comfortably open up one of the best club sides in Europe by playing inventive football. The accusations of naivete being levelled at Ange Postecoglu ignore the fact that only by succeeding at this type of football will we ever compete properly at a decent level in Europe once more. It’s either that or hoping for an occasional backs-to-the-wall type victory every five years or so.

I’m completely relaxed about Celtic’s indifferent start to the season. It’s clear that Postecoglu is attempting to put in place something that could radically transform how we approach European football. It needs time and almost an entire transfusion of playing personnel which will have to be conducted over several transfer windows. His cause has been made harder by a remarkable series of injuries that would have undermined the most seasoned and well-upholstered squad.

I don’t know if this bold attempt at playing the football of the elites will eventually work. To do so requires you to have a solid defence underpinning the charismatic middle-to-front aesthetic. Clearly, we are well short of where we need to be in this department. And clearly, if we’re still being beaten 4-0 at home by the likes of Leverkusen in 2023 then the Ange project won’t have worked.

Two other factors should be considered when assessing Celtic’s performances in Europe, no matter how good we can become. We are in one of the tiny few jurisdictions in Europe which permit football in their elite league to be played on cheap plastic. As recently as 2019 fully a quarter of all games played in the SPL were played on surfaces that pub five-a-side teams use.

And we permit them to be refereed by officials who’ve clearly been influenced by Aussie Rules football. In Scotland, as seen in some of our recent matches, tackles are permitted that would lead to instant dismissal across Europe. Quite literally, they are playing an entirely different version of the game in the rest of Europe.