The dust was only beginning to settle on another Champions League away day to forget for Celtic when Brendan Rodgers was confronted with a question about record-breaking financial results released by the club 24 hours before the 2-0 defeat in Rotterdam.

“It shows the stability of the club, how well it is run, how well the board have done over a number of years and their strategy clearly works,” said Rodgers. However, he and the Celtic fans can be forgiven for questioning the lack of ambition shown over the summer to turn soaring profits into a positive impact on the field.

The figures for the 2022/23 season are staggering for a club operating in the small pond of Scottish football. Overall revenue climbed 36 per cent to an all-time high of £120 million. Pre-tax profits of £40.7 million saw Celtic’s overall bank balance free of borrowings grow to £72.3 million. A return to the Champions League for the first time in five years was the principal reason for that surge in income, but a number of other contributing factors led to a bumper year.

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Compensation for Ange Postecoglou’s move to Tottenham made up the bulk of £13.5 million in non-recurring income and participation in the Sydney Super Cup - also thanks to the Australian’s appeal in his homeland - boosted commercial revenue. Player trading has been the key to Celtic consistently turning an operating loss into end-of-year profit. Last season was no different with a £14.4 million profit on the sales taking the total made in the past decade to £150 million.

However, that relatively meagre return for three players of the calibre of Josip Juranovic, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Jota is a further illustration of how the club has fallen behind even Europe’s second-tier of clubs such as Benfica, Ajax and Salzburg when it comes to getting top dollar for key assets.

When Rodgers spoke of making an impact on Europe on his return to the club in June, the support and most likely the manager expected the purse strings to be loosened sufficiently to take Celtic’s player-trading model to the next level. Instead, a familiar series of emerging talents from around the globe arrived in the £1-£3 million bracket with the chickens coming home to roost in Rotterdam.

Indeed, Celtic’s spend in the transfer market plummeted from £38.4 million to £13 million in the 12 months between June 2022 and June 2023. The board were keen to stress a further £15 million has been invested since in the likes of Luis Palma, Maik Nawrocki, Gustaf Lagerbielke, Hyun-Jun Yang and Hyeok-Kyu Kwon, plus loan deals for Paulo Bernardo and Nathaniel Phillips. However, only Palma and Lagerbielke of the new signings started against Feyenoord, while Nawrocki and Kwon were left out of the Champions League squad entirely.

Rodgers pointed to inexperience for Lagerbielke and Odin Thiago Holm’s red cards in five second-half minutes that made a difficult task against the Dutch champions an impossible one. But that is the hand the Northern Irishman has been handed by his superiors' desire to continue seeking rough diamonds rather than players that would instantly elevate the level of the first team. Who knows what might have been in De Kuip been handed the funds to upgrade on a 36-year-old Joe Hart, who showed his age in a cumbersome attempt to stop Calvin Stengs’ free-kick in first-half stoppage time.

Not only does a restricted budget lack the sporting ambition needed to take Celtic back to where Rodgers envisaged in Europe, it also risks handing the initiative back to a beleaguered Rangers at the domestic level. Another season of Champions League money and limited spending will likely see the Hoops’ coffers swell even further when the financial results for the current season are released in a year’s time. But there is an even bigger bounty on offer for the champions of Scotland next season when the new Champions League format comes into force with eight guaranteed games against Europe’s elite.

The Celtic board are betting on Rodgers and this squad still having enough to win the league and - with a four-point lead at the top of the table after just five games - they may be right. Yet, they are taking an unnecessary risk of leaving at least £40 million on the table and in Peter Lawwell’s own words, are running a Champions League club with a Europa League budget in mind.

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“History tells us that we will not always qualify for the Champions League and the benefit of holding cash reserves affords us the optionality of managing through seasons where we participate in the Europa League with the ability to retain our squad as opposed to selling key players to bridge the income shortfall between both competitions,” Lawwell said in his chairman’s statement.

If history tells Celtic fans anything it is that their best players will be cherry-picked no matter which European competition they are involved in. That model is a fact of life for almost all clubs bar a very select few at the top of the game, but those that continue to succeed from Brighton to Benfica reinvest to punch above their weight.

By contrast, the Celtic board seem to have settled on their status as a Europa League club despite enjoying the dividends of Champions League wealth.