By Matt Farr
Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi believes it is wrong that Celtic must qualify for the Champions League each year.
The Scottish club produced another dominant display in domestic competitions last term, cruising to the Scottish Premiership title by a 30-point margin, as well as winning both cup competitions.
Brendan Rodgers’ side also finished the entire domestic season unbeaten, tasting defeat only during their Champions League campaign.
However, despite their remarkable success in Scotland last term, Celtic must still qualify for a place in Europe’s premier competition ahead of the 2017-18 season.
Celtic have been handed a second qualifying round tie against either Northern Irish outfit Linfield or San Marino minnows La Fiorita next month, but a victory would only see them advance to the next stage of qualifying.
But Xavi, who won four Champions League titles with Barcelona, believes a Scottish Premiership title win should see them earn automatic qualification for the group-stage of the competition.
He told the Daily Record: “I don’t think that Celtic should be a club that has to qualify for the Champions League.
“When you consider the size of the club, their history, their stadium – they should qualify automatically by winning their league.
“But the rules are the rules and the important thing is that they qualify for the group stages.”
Xavi’s big claim about Celtic’s credentials will no doubt be echoed by the club’s fans, however, it will do little to change their current path to Europe’s premier competition.
Celtic held their own in the Champions League last season, despite their early group-stage exit, having been drawn alongside Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach.
The Hoops were thrashed 7-0 by the La Liga giants in their opening match, but bounced back to earn respectable draws against City (twice) and Gladbach.
But having already achieved a domestic clean sweep in his debut campaign at Parkhead, Rodgers is now targeting a challenge among Europe’s elite next season, provided his side emerge unscathed from another gruelling set of qualifiers.
In other Celtic news, the Hoops’ latest signing has delivered an honest verdict of his move to the club.