Brendan Rodgers

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Kolo Toure retires, joins Celtic coaching staff

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36-year-old defender Kolo Toure announced his retirement on Friday, calling close to a 19-year career that featured stints at Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool, and most recently Celtic.

In the same release, the Ivory Coast international also announced he will join the Scottish club as a technical assistant, beginning his coaching career at the club he last played for.

“This is a new chapter in my career, a new beginning. The football is over now,” Toure said to the official Celtic website.  “I can officially say I am retired from playing and now I am fully concentrating on coaching.”

Toure will be working under Brendan Rodgers at Celtic, the man who also brought him to Liverpool in 2013. “This is great news for Celtic that we are able to bring a man of Kolo’s experience into our coaching team,” Rodgers said in the same release. “In everything he does, he is quite simply a fantastic example to anyone.”

“I can learn so much from working with Brendan Rodgers, he is a top manager,” Toure said of his new boss. “I will be working with him and his staff very closely each day. He is one of the best young managers in the world right now. What he’s doing for Celtic is there for all to see, he’s doing amazingly right now.”

The release describes that Toure will be a member of the first-team coaching staff, “supporting on all first-team coaching matters, as well as using his knowledge, experience and expertise to assist across the club’s various youth levels.”

Celtic secures trophy treble, ends Scottish season unbeaten

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GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) Celtic completed a trophy treble in Scottish soccer and finished the domestic season undefeated after beating Aberdeen 2-1 in the Scottish Cup final thanks to an injury-time goal on Saturday.

Midfielder Tom Rogic scored from an acute angle in the second minute of stoppage time at Hampden Park to ensure Celtic added the cup to the Scottish Premiership and the Scottish League Cup.

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Brendan Rodgers became the third manager, after Jock Stein (1967, 1969) and Martin O’Neill (2001), to lead Celtic to a treble of domestic titles.

Celtic hasn’t lost any of its 47 games across in the league and both cups, and is the first team to go through the whole of a Scottish domestic season unbeaten.

Rodgers signs new four-year deal at Celtic

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Brendan Rodgers is having one heck of a year.

The ex-Liverpool boss has led Celtic to a total demolition of the Scottish top flight.

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The undefeated Bhoys have already clinched the league and lead the table by 23 points in Rodgers’ first year in charge, and he’s signed a new four-year deal with the club.

From CelticFC.net:

“Brendan has made a huge impact at Celtic already. He’s an outstanding manager and we believe he is one of the best coaches in Europe, if not world football, and we’re delighted that he has committed his future to Celtic.”

Celtic beats Hearts to secure Scottish league title

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A hat-trick by former Manchester City winger Scott Sinclair has given Celtic a 5-0 win over rivals Hearts, and in the process securing a sixth straight Scottish League title, one that was never truly in doubt.

Celtic’s win moved them a massive 22 points ahead of second-placed Aberdeen, meaning they are mathematically secure.

It has been, by all accounts, a successful season for the Scottish club. Brendan Rodgers‘ squad made the group stage of the Champions League, and although they finished winless in a very difficult group, they were pesky enough to earn three draws, including two against Manchester City. They have dropped just four points all season in league play and currently own a league goal differential of +58 with still eight matches to go. They plucked 20-year-old striker Moussa Dembele from Fulham for free, and pushed him to 17 league goals and 32 overall this season.

“My job when I came in was to win it in the best way we possibly could,” said Rodgers after the game. “We have had many outstanding performances but we have only just begun because there’s still an awful lot of development in this team. That’s the real exciting part.”

Celtic’s dominance under Rodgers reaching new levels

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They’re unbeaten in 29 games, winning 27 of them. They hold a 25-point lead. They’re about to clinch a sixth straight league title this weekend and it’s still not even April.

Celtic’s players have taken their supremacy of Scottish soccer to a new level this season, putting the storied club from Glasgow in the conversation when discussing the most dominant sides in Europe’s domestic leagues in the 21st century.

Celtic will be the Scottish champion again as early as Friday if its closest rival, Aberdeen, loses to Dundee. If Aberdeen wins, Celtic will take an unassailable lead in the Scottish Premiership by beating Hearts on Sunday.

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There’s been a sense of inevitability about the whole thing since the turn of the year, by which time Celtic had jumped into a 19-point lead. It’s long stopped being called a “title race” in Scotland, more a procession.

Meanwhile, the team coached by former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers won the Scottish League Cup in late November and is also through to the semifinals of the Scottish Cup.

With Celtic’s unbeaten run across three domestic competitions currently at 36 games, this might be the most dominant season by any club in the history of Scotland’s top flight.

A glance around Europe shows a few other examples of title monopolies.

Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) and BATE Borisov (Belarus) are currently on a streak of 11 domestic leagues titles in a row since 2006. Olympiakos is on course for a seventh straight Greek league title, which would be its 12th in the last 13 years, and Sheriff Tiraspol has won the Moldovan league every year except one since 2000. Basel leads the Swiss league by 17 points and is about to seal a ninth title in 10 years.

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In these lesser-profile leagues, teams can dominate because of the cash they receive from participating in UEFA competitions, which often allow them to outspend their domestic rivals.

Last week, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, attending a conference in Lisbon, spoke of the threats to European soccer in the coming years, including the “decrease in competitive balance within European club competitions and secondary effects affecting domestic competitions.”

There are examples of lopsided championships in Europe’s big leagues, too: Juventus is closing on an unprecedented sixth straight Serie A title in Italy and on course for a third straight Serie A-Coppa Italia double; Bayern Munich is on course for a fifth straight Bundesliga title in Germany, which included winning one championship after 27 matches of a 34-round league; Lyon won the French league title seven times in succession from 2002; and Ajax won four straight titles in the Netherlands from 2011-14.

Scotland is widely regarded as a backwater in European soccer these days, mainly because of the uncompetitive nature of its league and an increasing lack of exposure and coverage outside Britain.

What didn’t help was Rangers – Celtic’s fierce crosstown rival and winner of a record 54 league titles – getting demoted to the fourth tier of the Scottish game in 2012 because of financial irregularities.

This is Rangers’ first season back in the Premiership, but it hasn’t been able to challenge Celtic and currently sits 33 points behind in third place. There used to be constant talk of the two “Old Firm” clubs crossing the border to join the English league but that has cooled.

“I want to win (the league) by 50 points,” Rodgers, who is in his first season at Celtic, said last month.

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In any other league, that would be a preposterous comment, but perhaps no longer in Scotland.

The season started so embarrassingly for Celtic and Rodgers, a 1-0 loss to Gibraltarian part-timer Lincoln Red Imps in a Champions League qualifier in July described by some pundits as the club’s worst defeat in its 130-year history.

Now, they are about to lift the league title with eight matches to spare and potentially in the month of March for the second time in four years.

“We want to continue winning, continue the run that we’re on,” Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon said, “and make sure we do that for as long as we can.”

AP Sports Writers Graham Dunbar in Geneva and James Ellingworth in Moscow, and Associated Press writers Ciaran Fahey in Berlin, Daniella Matar in Milan, Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Raf Casert in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.

Steve Douglas is at http://www.twitter.com/sdouglas80