MONTHS like this one are why Olivier Ntcham chose Celtic in the summer.

The Frenchman was hardly short of options when he worked out that to get a game he had to get out of Manchester City.

Brendan Rodgers saw something in the midfielder and paid out £4.5m, the biggest fee from his time in Glasgow for a 22-year-old who’d never played a game for City having spent two seasons in Italy with Genoa on loan.

Celtic moved quickly to the front of the queue, they were far from the only admirers, and at first it seemed as if they had signed a world beater.

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Long and short passing, strong in the tackle, confident on the ball and he scored a few goals as well.

The most encouraging thing was that he did it in Europe. Ntcham was superb in the Champions League qualifiers, one of Celtic’s best players.

The word from inside Celtic was that Ntcham was perhaps not the best trainer in football history but everyone at the club felt there was a serious player in their midst.

But the problem with hitting the ground running is that it’s tough to sustain that pace.

Ntcham’s form deserted him, so too it seemed his confidence, he fell out of the team and while this tends to happen with younger players, Celtic are not in a position to spend so much on a substitute.

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However, anyone who watched him strut his stuff against Zenit St Petersburg last week would testify to this player’s ability. Put simply, he was superb, and if he can operate at the same level tomorrow night in Russia, Celtic will have a far better chance of getting through this tie.

“If we managed to get through, I think it would be a really big achievement for all of us,” said Ntcham. “For the manager, for the club and also for all of the players.

“When you achieve your targets, you are always happy and that is what we want to do. The second leg is going to be tough,but to get through is our aim and that is what we will fight for.

“All of the team enjoyed the first leg because we played good. Defensively, the team was good, and we managed to get the goal which was needed and now we take that to Russia. I think the coach set us up well and it stopped Zenit from making many chances.

“Four years ago, when I was playing for Manchester City, I went to Russia to play a game against CSKA Moscow. It was with the young team and it was a good game that I enjoyed. Of course, it was a little bit cold, but I liked it.

“Although we have many young players, I feel there is maturity when we are on the pitch. The manager has said that there is growth in the team and that is true.”

“Of course, they have now played a competitive game after their winter break and, when you play more games, you become stronger.”