Celtic will not be playing in this season’s UEFA Champions League after a calamitous collapse saw them lose 4-3 at home to CFR Cluj.
The Romanian side, managed by former Chelsea star Dan Petrescu, went ahead early on only for James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard to turn the game on its head. However, a penalty gave Cluj renewed hope and it was converted by Billel Omrani – but Ryan Christie looked to have put the tie to bed when restoring a 3-2 lead for the Hoops.
Yet again, Celtic’s sloppiness at the back left them down – with Omrani equalising expertly after the ball found his feet before George Tucudean added insult to injury in added-time with the fourth.
Celtic will be left kicking themselves after spurning good chances and gifting their opponents, but it is Tucudean’s story which proves the most remarkable of the evening.
The 28-year-old striker has been the top scorer in the Romanian league over the past two years, but once had trials at Celtic Park as a 15-year-old. He chose to leave Scotland to return to his native Romania but went on to have the last laugh last night with his late decisive strike.
The game was one of a real emotional magnitude for the forward, with news that an underlying heart condition could bring about an early end to his career, last night perhaps proving his last ever game.
He has underwent two heart operations in the last two months, missing many fixtures for Petrescu’s side, and has conceded that the condition may bring risk to him should he continue playing.
“I’m thinking about my future. I could retire. It’s not like a knee injury or something, it’s a heart problem.”
“Doctors have assured me I am safe, and nothing will happen, and I believe I am back at the same level of fitness as everyone else, but obviously it’s going to be difficult for me. I am hoping to play in Glasgow against Celtic because I spent some time there on trial when I was 15.
I stayed with a family in Scotland but decided to come back home. When in Scotland, I trained with some very famous Celtic players like Shunsuke Nakamura, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Artur Boruc and Massimo Donati.”
While it could prove the end for the striker, as far as endings in football go, it’s fairy-tale for the former Charlton man. He had his starring moment at Celtic Park, despite the whirlwind journey to it.