NEXT to the prestige and allure of the Champions League, the Europa League will always feel like the impoverished relative. But if the financial riches of Europe’s secondary tournament cannot touch its lucrative and increasingly exclusive superior, there is at least wealth of a different kind to be found in the competition for Celtic.

Chat of atonement and retribution as Celtic eased to a win on Thursday night against Cluj was misplaced given that the Champions League place is long gone. But there was something telling in the manner in which Celtic convinced against a team whom they had shipped four goals to just a few months ago with the Europa League looking like a tournament capable of offering them some redemption.

Top of their group after the opening two games, Neil Lennon’s side put in their most complete performance this season against Dan Petrescu’s side. And Lennon is confident that the Europa League can offer significant scope for Celtic to spread their wings.

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“I think it gets downplayed by the English media,” said Lennon.

“We are obviously prone to that because it is on our doorstep, be it the airwaves or TV. There is so much money in the Premier League and maybe the English clubs don’t take the Europa League as seriously. But other European countries do take it seriously.

“It is a prestigious tournament and it’s important. You know the more you go into it, the more prestigious it becomes – like every other competition. We are taking it pretty seriously because we want to make inroads in Europe for the reputation of the club. I think it’s important we embrace that. We have Lazio to come and that’s a glamour tie that will be exciting for the players. And we have some players here with European pedigree.

“Lazio is a plum draw and it’s not a team we have come up against in my time. They are a big Italian club. The carrot is the home game and then we travel to Rome to the Olympic Stadium. It’s going to be a fantastic experience.”

If Celtic are satisfied that they showed Cluj a truer picture of themselves on Thursday night, Parkhead captain Scott Brown will feel that he delivered a performance more in keeping with what has been expected from him. And for Lennon there remains a confidence his captain can be trusted to deliver on the big occasion.

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“Rangers away he was brilliant, Rennes away he was brilliant,” said Lennon. “The big games. He’s been playing consistently well and him and Callum McGregor gave us a great platform in the game, doing the dirty bits if you want to call it that. Second balls, controlling the game, filling in the gaps when needed. Physically he looks in great shape, he covered the ground, it was a really strong performance. It’s something I don’t take for granted.

“Every time he has a quiet game people are starting to look, ‘oh he’s getting on a bit’. It’s nonsense, he’s as strong as ever. He would be a big miss if he was injured for any length of time.”

The other positive for Lennon was the performance of Mohamed Elyounoussi who netted the second goal of the night. The Norwegian lost his way following his £16million deal from Basel to Southampton but his loan deal can provide a pathway back to the route his career was on. Certainly, on Thursday night’s evidence he can be quite the player for Celtic this season.

“He has great European pedigree with Basel,” said Lennon. “You could see that in his play. Boli [Bolingoli] has played in the competition with Vienna. We had a chat with him on Wednesday. We weren’t sure about his fitness levels but watching him do runs he looked really strong.

“Mohamed looked up to speed. We wanted more out of him in the throes of the game and we got that. He can be delighted with his performance.

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I think scoring will be a huge fillip for him as well. He is deceptive but he is a good runner with the ball. He is intelligent and he sees a pass. He looked very powerful last night and he has good feet. His game intelligence is very high.

“We have given him an opportunity here to get playing again and get back to the standards he set 18 months ago.”

Meanwhile, one of the club’s most consistent performers in recent seasons, James Forrest, has revealed plans to publish a book in conjunction with Celtic. Forrest is second only to Brown in terms of making the most European appearances for a Scottish club – 91 – with a century well within his grasp.

“Playing in Europe was something I always wanted to do but I am 28 and I want to keep adding to that,” said the affable winger. “When you hear stuff like that it gives you a real confidence boost and shows you must be doing something right.”

A Homegrown Hero, James Forrest’s journey through the ranks to the Celtic first-team is available to pre-order. A donation to the Celtic Foundation’s Christmas Appeal will be made by the club through sales of the book.