Tom Rogic to face ex-Celtic teammate in Socceroos' World Cup playoff
When Celtic's Australian international Tom Rogic ran at a tiring Aberdeen defence before slotting home the winner in May's Scottish Cup final, a loyal club servant was not on the pitch, having played his final game for the Bhoys just 10 days earlier.
Honduras international left-back Emilio Izaguirre had spent seven years with the Scottish champions, racking up six league championship winning medals, along with three domestic cups.
But the emergence of teenage full-back Kieran Tierney saw the 31-year-old become a more peripheral figure as he neared the exit door.
In July, Izaguirre ended his long and successful spell at the Glasgow club by joining Saudi club Al-Fayha on a two-year deal.
Midfielder Rogic had played alongside the Honduran for four years at Celtic, but he could not have imagined the two facing each other in very different circumstances just four months after saying farewell.
When the Socceroos face Honduras in the first game of the two-legged World Cup qualifying playoff on Friday, that is just the scenario that could take place. Rogic is a strong candidate for a place in the Australian starting team, with Izaguirre likely to add to his 90 caps for his country.
The two players may be tied by their links to the same club, but their career paths at Celtic Park have been very different.
Izaguirre arrived in Glasgow in 2010 after impressing for Honduras at that year's World Cup in South Africa ,and made an immediate impact, winning the Scottish Player of the Year award in a stand-out first season. His determined defending and creativity as an attacking full-back instantly won over the fans.
Rogic had considerably less experience under his belt when he joined Celtic as a 20-year-old, and he has had to be more patient while building a career in Scotland.
A series of injuries hindered his progress in his first two years at the club before a breakthrough year in 2015-16, appearing 39 times in all competitions and scoring 10 goals.
One his many spectacular strikes came when he volleyed home Izaguirre's cross in a 6-0 rout of Dundee early in the season.
When Brendan Rodgers took over at the start of the 2016-17 campaign, Rogic looked set to become a key figure in his plans and he made an excellent start to the campaign.
Just as Rogic's star was rising, however, Izaguirre's was on the wane. The Honduran almost left the club in 2016, with Tierney consistently preferred at left-back the previous season.
Izaguirre stayed on for one more year, and the Bhoys were grateful as he stepped in as a more than able deputy when Tierney suffered ankle ligament damage in the autumn and was ruled out for three months.
Izaguirre would certainly have had sympathy for his young teammate Tierney and also for the problems that Rogic has suffered early in his career.
Just after his first season in Scotland, rumours linked the Honduran with a move to the Premier League and Arsenal were identified as one of the clubs monitoring his progress. But disaster struck at the start of the 2011-12 season when Izaguirre suffered a broken ankle and ended up missing the first half of the campaign.
While Izaguirre would go on to become a solid performer for Celtic over several successful years, there was always a feeling that after his return from that broken ankle, he never became the player he had threatened to be in his first year at the club.
At the age of 24, Rogic stands at a crucial stage in his career. Like Izaguirre before him, he has been linked with a move to the Premier League. But injuries again got in the way last year when he picked up an ankle injury that saw him miss most of the final four months of the season.
However, the mercurial Aussie returned in time to make a memorable substitute appearance in the Scottish Cup final -- ironically replacing the injured Tierney -- and writing his name in the history books as his goal sealed a treble and an unbeaten domestic season.
He has not been a regular starter this season, much of which is down to the travel time taken on international duty. But he has continued to prove the man for the big occasion with standout performances against Rangers and Aberdeen.
The World Cup would be the perfect stage on which Rogic could show the world his undoubted talent. First, though, the Socceroos must get the better of Izaguirre and his teammates over two high pressure matches.
Victory will give Rogic a shot at his first World Cup in Russia next year, while Izaguirre aims for his second. If the career trajectories are true to form, we will see Rogic in Russia rather than Izaguirre.
Paul Murphy has lived in Thailand for nine years, contributing to ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express (UK) sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK