Barcelona legend Xavi has never been shy about expressing his love for Celtic.
The Spaniard has faced the Scottish giants at Celtic Park many times over the years, and the stadium’s noise and general atmosphere have often left him in awe of his surroundings.
Xavi, in quotes carried by multiple sources on Monday, has stated his belief that Celtic are simply too big to have to progress through the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, that a club that size should be propelled into the group stages because of how big and historically relevant to the competition they are:
“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 rules are rules and they have to make sure they qualify.”
Celtic were drawn against the winners of La Fiorita and Linfield in the second round of qualifying on Monday afternoon, and Xavi believes that with Brendan Rodgers at the helm they should be looking to better last season’s group stage appearance in the coming year. He does, however, accept that they will need to strengthen (and keep hold of striker Moussa Dembélé) to do so:
“The most important thing is that Celtic keep their big players – Dembele was one of the top forwards in Europe last season and any club must firstly make sure that they keep their best players.
“If they want to go up a level in the Champions League they must also look to add some quality.
“Even if it is a loan player from one of the big clubs in England – it’s important they have players who have experience of playing at the highest level.”
Xavi’s last visit to Parkhead as a Barca player came in 2013, when a late Cesc Fabregas goal gave Gerardo Martino’s side all three points in a Champions League group stage match.