Celtic manager Neil Lennon sees no reason why a Scottish team cannot reach a European final again.
But Lennon refused to make any bold statement about his team’s ambitions this season after they were paired with FC Copenhagen in the last 32 of the Europa League.
Lennon played in the 2003 UEFA Cup final when Celtic lost to Porto, five years before Rangers emulated their progress.
The richest leagues in Europe have since grown even further away from Scotland and many other nations in terms of finances but Lennon believes his club should be striving for the top.
When asked whether a Scottish team could make it to a final again, he said: “Yes. No doubt about it. Why not? We had great success in the last decade, 2003 and 2008, so I think these things can come round again. I’m hoping it will be us one day.”
Lennon, whose side topped their group with a game to spare, added: “We all wanted the Champions League but we have made the most of the Europa League so far. Looking at the squad at the start of this campaign, I felt we could do a little bit of damage in the competition.
“We have done that but there is still a long way to go and a lot of big games ahead. But I am absolutely thrilled with how we negotiated the group.”
Cluj counterpart Dan Petrescu tipped Celtic as potential winners of the tournament but Lennon said: “It’s too early for that. I would like to make inroads in the competition, it’s important for player development, it’s important for the club, and it’s important for me to develop as a coach as well.
“Europe is always a huge arena to play in. We will try and do our best. Can we get to the quarters and take it from there? That’s when you really start to get excited about it but it’s too early to say about getting to finals.
“You see the calibre of teams who are still in the tournament, there’s a lot of big clubs who will have their eyes on us.
“I don’t like making predictions. We don’t play until February 20, it’s a lifetime in football. So we will see how we are looking and how strong we are, and we may look to bring another couple of players in to what we already have in January.”
Like Celtic, Copenhagen dropped out of the Champions League at the third qualifying round. They then finished above Dynamo Kyiv and Lugano to qualify for the last 32 behind Malmo.
While Lennon spoke, they were gearing up for their final game before a two-month winter break. They will resume against Esbjerg on February 14 before the first leg against Celtic six days later.
Lennon said: “I think it’s a good draw when you consider we have avoided the Champions League teams dropping down and maybe some perceived bigger clubs.
“It’s still a team with a great European pedigree over the years. They did very well to come out of the group.
“We know they have a break now so that may work in our favour when the fixtures come round in February. Hopefully it will work in our advantage that they haven’t played regular football.
“On the flip side they could be well-rested, relaxed and looking forward to the second half of the season. I’m hoping it will be the former where we can maybe capitalise on a bit of rustiness.
“I’m pleased we are away first. You know what you have got to do when you take them back so it’s important we get a good foothold in the game.
“At this stage it’s always going to be a good team you come up against and Copenhagen certainly fall into that category.”