But to paraphrase George Orwell, that peerless chronicler of matters from Barcelona to Wigan, some are more elite than others.
There are minor miracles in football, even at Champions League level, most notably Celtic defeating Barcelona last year, but the golden rule normally applies in that this is a competition where financial resources are usually made to count. This was the case again last night when the aristocrats of Milan took the three points in a match in which Celtic had periods of domination and created enough chances to travel back to Glasgow with a victory. A deflected shot and the aftermath of a free-kick, unnecessarily conceded, were Celtic's undoing.
These two incidents cast a baleful aspect on what had been a bright, optimistic performance from Neil Lennon's side against a Milan franchise that has won this competition or its predecessor on seven occasions. The joy for Celtic, their fans and their bank manager is that the Scottish champions participate in the group stages. This happiness would have been in short supply after the promise of San Siro last night turned into defeat but the extraordinary facet for everyone is that Celtic compete in the group stages. The difference is hardly subtle. It is the contrast between turning up and winning points.
Celtic left empty-handed but this was no drubbing or even routine defeat. The visitors could, perhaps should, have left with at least a point. They will not be consoled by the truth that they punched above their financial weight.
The Champions League can be a punishing, sometimes embarrassing experience. Galatasaray can testify to this truth after scoring against Real Madrid but this counter was rendered somewhat irrelevant by Carlo Ancelotti's side hitting six. Bayer Leverkusen were dismissed by Manchester United and the £200m men of Manchester City cashed in against the Czechs of Plzen. Yet Celtic have marshalled their inferior resources in financial terms to emerge from a difficult group last year and to prove more than an irritant to AC Milan at San Siro. Juventus put five past the Scottish champions without reply in the last 16 last season but Celtic had not only survived but prospered in a group containing Barcelona, Spartak Moscow and Benfica. This all from a club that buys to sell, from a business that has to work from a budget that is dictated not by the Champions League but by the realities of the SPFL Premiership.
Celtic thus marched out in Milan without such as Gary Hooper whose £5m price tag is about the equivalent of a year's wages for Mario Balotelli. Neil Lennon's task then is to both organise and improvise. Increasingly, the Celtic manager has shown he has both the aptitude and the appetite for such a task.
There was early criticism of the Northern Irishman as his team had the defect of faltering calamitously in domestic challenges, particularly in cup competitions. But he has learned. He has also set up his teams imaginatively and with an element of reality. He protected his back four last night with the deployment of Scott Brown and Charlie Mulgrew just in front of his centre-backs. Both played well with Mulgrew particularly combative and effective and unlucky not to connect fully with an overhead kick in the second half. Brown, too, also had a good opportunity in the second period but could not quite make proper contact after a brilliant Celtic counter-attack. However, he showed his customary ill-discipline in elbowing Balotelli, thus occasioning the free-kick that led to the second goal.
Most crucially, Lennon showed confidence in his side, sending them out with the most enterprising line-up at his disposal. He picked Anthony Stokes, once viewed as a luxury accessory or a player with insufficient technique for the demands of playing as a lone striker. It was an arduous night for the Irishman but he could have scored with a first-half shot and a second-half free-kick that hit the bar.
Lennon also placed his faith on pace on the flanks. Adam Matthews, a Welsh full-back, looked like a Scots winger of old. Quick, direct and capable of causing injury though his final delivery was sometimes awry. When he was replaced, suffering from fatigue and, perhaps, the after- effects of his injury at Tynecastle, Lennon brought on more speed in the shape of Derk Boerrigter. When Kris Commons, bright and inventive, was replaced it was by Teemu Pukki, the £3m signing from Schalke.
This ambition was undone by two late goals. There was an element of luck in the first when Cristian Zapata's show was deflected into the net by Emilio Izaguirre. There was daftness in the second. Brown's off the ball foul gave Balotelli a free-kick that Fraser Forster saved brilliantly but Sulley Muntari scored with the rebound. Thus the first was a result of misfortune, the second from the boots of fortune in the shape of both Muntari and Balotelli.
The bottom line, however, is that Celtic did not have the quality to take their chances. In the playground of the elite, a hefty price is paid for this failing.