Moravčík on Celtic, Juventus and 'leader' Lennon

"In football there are surprises, not miracles," Lubomír Moravčík told as he discussed his old team Celtic FC's trip to Juventus and recalled his time in Glasgow.

Lubomír Moravčík made 94 league outings for Celtic and faced Juventus in 2001
Lubomír Moravčík made 94 league outings for Celtic and faced Juventus in 2001 ©Getty Images

Tournament ambassador for May's UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals in Slovakia, Lubomír Moravčík took time out from promoting the event to speak to about his former club Celtic FC.

Now 47, Moravčík made almost 100 top-flight appearances for the Glasgow team as a creative midfielder during a four-year spell spanning either side of the millennium.

In this interview, the two-time Scottish Premier League winner explains the "mission impossible" facing the Hoops on Wednesday in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, what he remembers about playing Juventus in a classic 2001 match, and what makes old team-mate Neil Lennon a "leader" of men. After the 3-0 first-leg loss to Juventus, it is going to be difficult for Celtic to progress, but it is a great achievement for them to have reached the knockout stage ...

Lubomír Moravčík: I was lucky enough to be there when they beat Barcelona [2-1 on matchday four]. I hoped they would keep a clean sheet against Juventus, because then they would have a chance of going through. They conceded three goals, so now it's mission impossible. In football there are surprises, but not miracles. The night they beat FC Barcelona must have been quite something.

Moravčík: It was extraordinary. It's the sort of thing that happens once every ten years, but they did it. The people were so proud, you saw Rod Stewart crying. It's a country with wonderful people and they love football. I experienced that and I'll never forget it. I'm really happy that I was able to experience that, because my career wasn't complete without that. I was really happy and I feel wonderful emotions every time I go to Celtic because I'm so proud that I was part of that club. I love Celtic, I love them. It's like my family. You played alongside some great players, such as Henrik Larsson. Who is your favourite player in the current squad?

Moravčík: I don't see Celtic all that often. Henrik was able to change the game or win the game by himself. This Celtic team's strength is more collective than individual. Henrik was extraordinary. We gave him poor passes and he scored goals. He could create things himself to score goals. You played in an extraordinary group stage game against Juventus in 2001, which you won 4-3. What do you remember of that match?

Moravčík: Martin O'Neill told me during the week leading up to the game that I would be playing. I hadn't played a lot before that, and when I knew I was going to play, I prepared as if it was going to be my last big game for Celtic. I did everything. It was the first time that I was going to play in the Champions League and I knew probably the last because I'd announced I was going to leave Celtic at the end of the season.

I gave everything, but I enjoyed it. I treated the game as if it was a bonus in my life as a footballer. I enjoyed myself, you could see it. I was happy to be on the pitch and, what's more, I was playing against Pavel Nedvěd, a player I admired a lot for his footballing skills, but also for his modesty and personality. Neil Lennon, your former team-mate, is now Celtic manager. Did you think he would become a coach and have the qualities required to be a success in that role?

Moravčík: Firstly, it was great to be in the team and in the dressing room with Neil as he was a leader. He worked a lot for me, for Henrik, for everyone, and he was satisfied with that role. That's the most important thing about him: he knew what he had to do, to work so that we could score the goals. He was a leader in the group, a good guy – those are the qualities that you need to be a coach.

A coach need not have been the best player technically, but he needs to know what you can do and how to do it on the pitch. He's also someone who can get you to follow him, and that's the case with Neil. He really encouraged us, and with him working behind us, we could do what we had to do to score goals. He's a good coach, with good qualities.