Ange Postecoglou believes Real Madrid great Ferenc Puskas would have been proud to see his protege lead Celtic into a Champions League double-header against the Spanish giants.
Postecoglou played under the Hungarian for South Melbourne from 1989 to 1992 and soaked in as much knowledge from him before eventually moving into management at the same club.
The Hoops boss could do little else but reflect on the influence of the late Hungary and Real Madrid star – who the European Cup three times among many other honours – after Celtic were drawn against the Champions League holders, RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk in Group F.
Ahead of the cinch Premiership game against Dundee United at Tannadice on Sunday, Postecoglou admitted the matches against Real Madrid would be “pretty special” and not only because it will be the first time in 42 years that the clubs have met in competitive games.
He said: “Obviously, I was pretty fortunate and blessed to have Ferenc Puskas as my manager for three years.
“I asked as many questions as I could about his whole Real Madrid experience because it was such a fantastic team, not just in the timespan of when he was playing but beyond that, they really established themselves as one of the world’s greatest sides with the football they played.
“So it is a shame he is not around to see it.
“I am sure he would have taken great pride in seeing somebody he had a big influence over on leading a side out against them but, for our whole football club, it is always, that’s why we want to play at this level.
“We want to be in the Champions League to test ourselves against the best and that is what we will be doing.
“I am excited that we are in it. We are really excited about what is ahead.”
The Champions League fixtures will be confirmed on Saturday but, before the first scheduled game on September 6/7, Celtic have three games to play including an Old Firm derby against Rangers after matches against Dundee United and Ross County in the Premier Sports Cup.
Postecoglou believes his side will be focused on domestic duties.
He said: “The players understand that the reason we are in this position is that last year we were champions of our league.
“We have earned this right and we have got to always respect the fact that if you are not performing at a certain level – irrespective of the competition – then there is no point looking ahead because you will either not play in that or struggle if you do, so our boys will be focused.
“They know we have three important games before that and there will be games in between the Champions League games so there will be no one here saving themselves for those fixtures.”