In the foothills of the Alps, Celtic discovered that some mountains take time, serious forward planning, the proper personnel, some good fortune and copious reserves of cash to climb. And even then, one might not make it down the other side alive.
Celtic’s 2-0 defeat to Juventus in a teeming Turin last night was not quite the ending they had envisaged after their compelling input into the group stage, but there comes a time when the fiscal realities of competing in the latter stages of the Champions League shine a light on the obvious facts of life.
Attempting to live with clubs who possess a substitute worth about the total cost of the starting side you have pieced together is akin to pushing back a tidal wave with your hands. In the end, the truth will eventually wash all over you and force you to drown in the moment.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon was faced with a familiar sight in the opposition technical area when the Ghana midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah - bought for €9m (£7.8m) and a figure who came across Celtic representing Udinese in a couple of 1-1 draws in the Europa League last season - replaced Federico Peluso on 57 minutes.
Juventus could afford the luxury of omitting Asamoah from the first leg due to participation in the African Nations Cup. The flipside to that coin saw Celtic field defender Efe Ambrose 48 hours after he returned from helping Nigeria win it.
Ambrose made two errors as Celtic lost 3-0 in the first leg in Glasgow to help render last night’s return as dead a rubber as a tyre used by a Michael Caine Mini in Italy’s motor city. For Celtic, the Italian Job was always destined to fail.
Such small errors are magnified significantly among football’s larger concerns. These are the everyday problems when fighting out of the impoverished Scottish Premier League.
Celtic somehow catapulted themselves out of a group that contained Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow, clubs who have spent like drunken sailors compared to Celtic shopping on the cheap across various territories for a lively young unit of unheralded hopefuls, most of whom had never played in the Champions League before this season.
It is ironic that Celtic produced their best football of the tournament in two legs against Juventus yet failed to score a goal. They binged on almost 60 percent of possession last night, had more shots on goal than the hosts and looked technically as bright yet still traipsed off losing 2-0.
It must be said the Juventus defence was something to behold despite the dark arts of Italian defending in the first leg helping to ensure last night’s second leg was as damp a squib as a soaked Turin.
Celtic should have had penalties and Juve men sent off in the first leg by a useless Spanish referee Alberto Mallenco apparently with a penchant for the days of Kent Walton’s wrestling, but there is a reason why Juve have the tightest defence in the tournament. They have shipped only four goals in eight outings. They don’t suffer fools gladly.
It would also be churlish not to admire Juve’s efficiency, but then again these are the Italian champions, a club fuelled by FIAT millions and a side who are six points clear at the top of Serie A.
Celtic were far from outclassed over the two legs, more out-thought and out-finished with Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella obliging their remit.
As Barcelona discovered in losing to Celtic 2-1 in November with over 80 percent of the ball, possession means little without goals. Celtic’s inability to cut through Juventus ultimately proved their undoing. Not that they should feel sore about a 5-0 aggregate defeat that flattered Antonio Conte’s team.
This has been a heartwarming experience. Not only for Celtic, but for a Scottish football scene ravaged by internal strife, poverty and in-fighting after the liquidation of Rangers last summer.
With their oldest and suddenly newest rivals out of the way for at least another two-and-a-half years in the nether regions of the Scottish game, Celtic must get on with the business of overseeing an unhealthy monopoly of their league scene.
Some season-ticket holders have gone elsewhere on SPL weekends. Celtic are 16 points clear with nine games remaining and no natural competitor in sight.
Celtic may be huge in terms of support and a global appeal, but in financial terms they are on the light side. Being debt-free is no bad thing, but the cost comes in furthering yourself in Europe every year. The days of the club's European Cup win in 1967 are from a distant era.
When Lennon said last night that he would not stand in the way of any players wanting to leave, the message he was conveying was natural: Celtic are a selling club. They cannot afford to keep the waifs and strays the Northern Irishman has suited and booted for the grandest of occasions.
Gary Hooper would hardly take a step up by leaving Celtic for Norwich City, but playing in the Premier League brings with it the prospect of doubling wages. Hooper, Victor Wanyama and goalkeeper Fraser Forster could be sold on for anything between £20-30m with the Glasgow club spending just over £5m to recruit all three.
Lennon has been managing Celtic for three years, and his stockpile of credibility as a coach has increased remarkably. But he must continue to use the club’s scouting network to source the next collection of willing warriors when his main protagonists are inevitably flogged.
Manchester United stand to collect £34m from UEFA for departing at the same stage as Celtic. Unlike United, Celtic will be wallowing in their unexpected windfall, but there is little time for satisfied reflection with the first of three qualifying matches for next year's tournament on the digest in July.
Celtic’s progression to the last 16 was a minor miracle, but expectation levels should be doused. Lennon’s success as a prospector and alchemist does not mean he can turn water into wine every year.
“It might be a handicap that we are probably about £100m behind most of the other squads in the last 16 of the Champions League,” said Lennon.
A veil was drawn over Celtic last night in Turin. Lennon's features were never likely to be etched on any shroud.