WHEN the Celtic board trumpeted the fact that the club currently has £72m in the bank at their recent AGM, they may have thought such news would go down well with fans. But rude financial health on the balance sheet means little to the punters when results aren’t going well on the field, and their run of defeats in the Champions League only serve to make their frugality look like footballing folly.

That being said, it’s not as if Celtic have not been spending money. But it is the manner of that spend, and the model they have often received warm praise for following, that is now coming under fire. And with each European defeat, critics of that signing policy are further vindicated.

When the Celtic board sanctioned the signings of Jota and Cameron Carter-Vickers last summer, they pushed the club beyond the glass ceiling of around £3m to £4m that they generally would invest in a player, spending to accumulate.

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It paid off, with both players adding quality and becoming key men in the team, before Jota then made Celtic a huge return on their investment when he left for Saudi Arabia.

However, having banked that cash, it appears that the Celtic board retreated into their comfort zone in the summer, and that lack of ambition has proven costly in the Champions League, where performances have often been creditable, but their lack of quality at both ends of the pitch has resulted in another embarrassing return when it comes to results.

Because make no mistake, the frequency of these defeats has now become something rival fans are roundly mocking the club for, and opposition teams must be rubbing their hands when Celtic’s name is drawn out of the hat and into their section.

When you assess Celtic’s signings over the past few windows, the strike rate for success is poor. And while individual transfer fees and wages have been relatively modest, it surely would have been wiser to pool some of those outlays into a more ambitious investment in a player or two from that next rung up in terms of their quality.

Not all of that outlay was in the last window, either. Going back further, how much has been wasted on the likes of Alexandro Bernabei, Yosuke Ideguchi and Oliver Abildgaard?

There have been successes during that time of course in that bargain basement price range, such as Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate and Kyogo, while if we are being generous, the jury is still out on the likes of Oh Hyeong-gyu and Yang Hyun-jun, though the early signs are not overly promising.

It seemed like the summer was the obvious time to once more put a few eggs into one or two baskets rather than scrambling their budget on 10 players who may never even make an impact on the Celtic first team.

Brendan Rodgers was coming back, they had guaranteed Champions League group stage football, and the Europa League beyond Christmas if they could muster a team that was capable of finishing third in their section.

They have fallen some way short of that goal, and fans – encouraged admittedly by the frankness of their manager and even their captain on the need for quality additions – are laying the blame for that squarely at the door of the board.

How many of their additions since the last winter window could be considered regular first team players? Two, in Alistair Johnston and Luis Palma, maybe? In that time, they have also signed Tomoki Iwata, Kwon Hyeok-kyu, Oh, Yang, Gustaf Lagerbielke, Marco Tilio, Nat Phillips, Maik Mawrocki, Paulo Bernardo and Odin Thiago Holm.

Some of those, particularly the last three, may well have something to offer down the line. But the point is, none of them were ready to come into the team this season and make a contribution at Champions League level, and Celtic arrived in the most prestigious club competition in the world unprepared - again - as a result.

Injuries and suspensions meant that some of those players were thrown into the team in any case along the way, but it was only really Bernardo who showed up well in patches, with the performances of the rest only further highlighting how ill-equipped they currently are to operate at such a level.

They say a sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, so how much more evidence do the Celtic board need that their current signing policy has them set up to fail in European competition?

They have now gone 15 group game stages without a win. They haven’t won away in the Champions League for six years. They haven’t won at home in the competition in a decade. They haven’t won a knockout round in any European competition for 20 years.

If they are serious about restoring Celtic’s battered reputation on the European stage, they need to do something to break that cycle. No one is saying they should go out and splash £15m on a player, but redirecting the budget to prioritise quality – Rodgers’ favourite buzzword of the moment – over quantity would at least allow them to put up more of a fight.

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Following them abroad at the moment has become something of a Groundhog Day experience, with the setting changing but everything around the match playing out in a wearingly familiar manner. Decent performance, defeat, talk of lessons. Rinse and repeat.

It is like we have all awoken from a fever dream in 2018, with Rodgers at the helm once more and debate raging about the board’s inability to tool him up properly to reach his goals for the club.

In January, they have to send a signal that the hoary old trope about being happy to simply be a little bit better than Rangers isn’t justified.

The crowing about £72m being in the bank, when there are project players on the pitch in the Champions League, is not the way to go about it.