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Over the most recent seasons, Scotland's clubs are unable to contend with many of the top clubs in Europe when it comes to the Champions League and Europa League tournaments. Even Scotland's runaway league winners over the last seven years, Celtic, have failed to make a dent in European competitions. If some stats are not encouraging, there are good reasons for Scottish football fans to hope for a European title within the next few years. There has been positive news this week as both Rangers and Hibernian qualified for the second round of the Europa League and move into the next round with Aberdeen after Celtic successfully progressed in the Champions League also.

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Money wins trophies

Years ago, a European night for Celtic and Rangers was an occasion in which the two teams battled the heavyweights of the continent. The two clubs, who have won 103 Scottish titles between them, were regularly swashbuckling their ways through European tournaments.

As recently as 2011, Rangers had made it to the Europa League round of 16. Just three seasons early, the club had played in the UEFA Cup final, losing to Zenit St. Petersburg. But in the years that followed, Rangers went into the administration, and only recently returned to the Scottish top-flight. The 2017-18 season was the first time in five years that Rangers had played in Europe. It didn't go well as the club was eliminated from the Europa League in the first qualifying round.

Celtic haven't qualified for the Champions League knockout stages since 2012-13. Despite being the richest Scottish club, Celtic haven't been able to equal the financial might of the other teams in the competition. Celtic did make the Europa League last 32 in 2017-18, but the feat came after crashing out of the Champions League group stage. Their performance in the Champions League saw the Parkhead outfit dismantled by two of Europe's biggest, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The Europa League last 32 saw Zenit St. Petersburg came back from a first leg 1-0 loss to win the tie 3-1 on aggregate.

Despite Celtic posting an increase in profits from 2016 to 2017 of £6.4 million, the money just isn't enough to attract top players to the club to compete in Europe. However, it seems way enough to win the Scottish Premiership as the odds for Celtic to be champion next season only is at 1/10 on Genting.

The differences between the money flowing into England's Premier League and the Scottish Premiership are apparent. The Premier League's television money is helping clubs spend millions on new talent each season. Even clubs that fight relegation in the Premier League are spending club record amounts on new players. The Premier League's bottom club from 2017-18, West Brom Albion, were relegated but still managed to buy five players for over £50m. In contrast, the Scottish Premiership winners Celtic spent just £10.64m on new arrivals.

Even England's Championship clubs are outspending Scotland's top sides. League winners Wolverhampton Wanderers spent over £22m in 2017-18. Still more than Celtic did. If Scottish clubs want to win the Champions League or Europa League, it doesn't matter how good the clubs' managers are tactically. It will take far better players to achieve success.

The other solution is to bet on young players, or undervalued players. Many listings exist and clubs are sending scout all over Europe to spot the best options. Even though young players are getting more expensive at every transfer window due to the massive inflation in the football field. The inflation is mainly personalized by Neymar who, after a record-breaking transfer, already thinks about finding a new club for next season. Things are changing fast and Scottish clubs need to adapt if they don’t want to totally disappear from the European scene.

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It can also be seen in the sport betting industry. The average odds for a Celtic game in the Scottish Premiership is around 3/20. However, if fans want to use a Bet365 bonus to bet on the Celtics during an European game, they’ll bet with a more profitable odds which will usually around 3/1, even way higher if the club face a top European club as Munich or PSG last season. Those differences between the odds in a Scottish Premiership game and a European one reveals a lot on how Celtic is seen outside of the borders.

How can Scottish teams compete with Europe's top leagues?

Outside of a Scottish team being bought by a wealthy individual or group, and having money invested at the levels of Manchester City, PSG or even Wolverhampton Wanderers, it is difficult to see how teams can level the playing field.

Perhaps fixing the problem is impossible due to Scottish football being dominated by two teams for most of its history. Celtic and Rangers have been able to pluck talent from other sides and outspend their opponents off the pitch. It has led to the teams succeeding on the pitch. However, even this explanation seems a bit simplistic as everywhere else in Europe, the locals’ championship is dominated by one or two teams, except in Premier League, where six teams can usually win the trophy at the beginning of the season.

Would a salary cap like America's and Canada's Major League Soccer and a playoff system improve Scottish football? Perhaps it would level the Scottish Premiership's playing field, but it wouldn't help Scotland's teams in Europe.

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Why won't Scottish teams win the Champions League or Europa League?

From 2018-19, the Scottish Premiership champions must compete for one of four places in the Champions’ League group stage. Celtic must play and win four two-leg series just to reach the group stage of the Champions League next term. The amount of football the club must play just to reach the group stage is daunting, and in essence, Celtic, if they confirm their first brilliant game against Alashkert (0-3 victory) will play a cup tournament before starting the Champions League proper. It is a tough task that Premier League or La Liga Clubs do not have to face.

Scottish sides may have a better chance in the Europa League. Thirteen places are up for grabs this coming season and three Scottish teams will be competing. Aberdeen, Rangers and Hibernian will compete in the Europa League's qualifying rounds.

First Results of Rangers (2-0 against Shkupi) and Hibs (6-1 against Runavik) in the first qualifying round are very encouraging, while Aberdeen will start in the second qualifying round. Like in the Champions League, the amount of football the clubs must play will be torturous.

Will Scottish football return to European glory?

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Three Scottish teams have won European trophies in their histories. Celtic won the 1967 European Cup defeating Internazionale in Lisbon. Rangers claimed the 1972 Cup Winners' Cup by beating Dynamo Moscow 3-2 in Barcelona. Aberdeen also claimed the Cup Winners' Cup. The club did it in 1983 under the leadership of Alex Ferguson. Aberdeen unexpectedly defeated Real Madrid 2-1 in Gothenburg. Months later, Aberdeen won the European Super Cup when the Reds outclassed favoured German club Hamburg.

Success in Europe has been few and far between for Scottish clubs. With the gulf in finances in football today, Scotland's best will continue to struggle to make up for a lack of money. Someday, Scottish clubs could rise again, but it will be sometime before it happens. Unless major investment occurs and a better UEFA coefficient enables teams to bypass the qualifying rounds, the Champions League and Europa League titles will just be a dream for Scottish football fans. But hope is key in football.