DERMOT DESMOND raised more than a few eyebrows when, in a rare interview, he said Celtic's performance exceeds that of any other club in the UK.

The major shareholder was referring to their profit-and-loss performance, balance sheet performance and performance on the field.

It's quite a claim, especially when you are including clubs the size of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United in what he described as a "financial matrix."

Dermot is not prone to such outbursts, so you can take it as read he has the figures to back this up.

I don't actually believe you can make a direct comparison with the top clubs in the English Premier League because it is not a level playing field.

But, when you see a club like QPR announcing losses of over £65million last season, you can understand why Celtic are very proud of the way they are continuing to operate and why they are resolute in their belief they must stand by this strategy.

As Dermot points out, they are restricted by the disparity of TV income between teams in England and those operating on this side of the border.

But, the other side of this divide is that Celtic have a better opportunity than most of the clubs operating down south to get into the Champions League.

That has become such a huge part of their season, on the pitch and on the balance sheet.

It boosts turnover by a huge percentage. And, as we saw when they defeated Shakhter Karagandy in this season's play-offs, the relief is on a par with actually winning a trophy.

However, that can all be undone by a bad bounce of the ball, or bad decision, or a player making a mistake.

So, qualification can't be relied upon - and certainly can't be the basis of a business plan.

Celtic don't make that error. But, by the same token, they do make qualification for the Group Stage the focus of their season, along with retaining the title, of course.

The real challenge comes when you have to invest in the players to get you to the Group Stage without over-exposing yourself financially if you don't make it.

That brings the question, should the club put even more resources into the squad to give them a better chance of not only playing in the Group Stages, but challenging for a spot in the last 16?

How much would that require? And how much of a gamble would it be?

The way you answer this will depend on whether you are sitting on the board, the manager's chair, or in the stands as a supporter.

Of course, Neil Lennon took his side to the knock-out stages last season.

But, this time, we were reminded how tough it is to live with the much-better- resourced clubs in the Group Stages.

That brings us to the other point made by Dermot which has started quite a few debates.

He commented he believes the squad has got stronger, year after year.

I can't go along with that this season. Overall, the replacements brought in have not yet proved to have been of the same quality as the players who were sold.

I accept Virgil van Dijk is a better player than Kelvin Wilson, but Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama, and, to a lesser extent, Joe Ledley, have not been replaced by players of the same calibre.

Neil reminds everyone this is a season of transition, and guys like Nir Biton and Leigh Griffiths are starting to show promise.

But, compared to the squad which got to the last 16, I could not agree there has been an improvement, and the Group Stage results confirmed this.

Nevertheless, everyone at the club deserves huge credit for how healthy Celtic now is, the board, the manager, the players, and the supporters.

And Peter Lawwell has been, and continues to be, a key figure in this success.

Dermot said he is as good as any chief executive in the world.

He's certainly the best the club has ever had, and it was a proud moment for Celtic as well as Peter when his work was recognised by his appointment to the board of the prestigious and powerful European Club Association.

WHEN you think about the managers, players and directors who have come and gone as Celtic have been turned around, Peter has been a constant.

He is not always flavour of the month with some fans, but he knows how important it is to continue to stick to the business strategy, which clearly works and is not about to be changed.

The supporters just need reassured that the way the club is run financially is not at a cost to the squad and the quality of football they are going to be paying to watch.

The business and the team has to be a marriage, both living in harmony with neither more important than the other.

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