When Brendan Rodgers sat down to address the media on Friday, May 17 at Celtic’s Lennoxtown Training Centre, he did so with a smile on his face.

A tangible sense of levity suffused the room. And while the Celtic manager may not have physically exhaled with several rolling cameras pointed in his direction, his easy-going tone and less calculated choice of words delivered the same effect.

He spoke contentedly, warmly and relievedly – a triumvirate of adverbs somewhat elusive in the wake of the Northern Irishman’s press conferences during earlier junctures of his second coming in Scotland.

But having clinched the league championship with an emphatic 5-0 mauling of Kilmarnock at Rugby Park two days earlier, Rodgers had made good on his premonitory “see you in May” pledge 10 months prior.

Dispelling any perceived external narratives clearly meant a lot to the Celtic manager (with a team who would go on to secure a traditional league and Scottish Cup double, no less), but he maintained scope for introspection when balancing his sides achievements with the criticism levied at them in the weeks leading to this point.

“We’re back to zero,” he said when asked about building on success from the new season forward. “Hopefully.”

Six weeks later, Nicolas Kuhn echoes a similar sentiment on a personal level.

Read more:

Signed in the January transfer window from Rapid Vienna, the German midfielder spoke candidly at the time about the agonising dental surgery that left him unable to eat for 12 days just weeks before arriving in Glasgow.

The ensuing weight loss left the 24-year-old with an unusual road to recovery – fit to play, yet physically hindered as a result of his rapid and fairly extreme weight loss.

The midfielder nevertheless made 18 appearances under Rodgers in the back-end of the domestic campaign, but suggested he was only beginning to hit his stride in fitness terms when Celtic overcame Aberdeen on penalties in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden in April.

Now, he wants nothing more than to use the new season as a starting block for what’s to come.

“It feels like my Celtic career starts now,” said Kuhn. “That is the goal. I just want to have a good pre-season, stay fit and show everyone. Yes, I hope it’s time for the real thing after the introduction.”

Of course, the trappings of modern football extend well beyond the training pitch with Kuhn’s fitness programme at Celtic having been complemented by his own personal trainer’s advice delivered remotely from Germany.

Kuhn says that by the end of last season, his weight had returned to normal and he’d fully settled at his new club in a new country. The German arrived at a time when things weren’t going quite as smoothly as they were during the final stretch of the Scottish Premiership campaign, so has already experienced relative highs and lows in green and white.

He added: “When I came in, it wasn’t an easy moment for the whole club. So it’s going to be a little bit different this year.

“I’ve played at a couple of clubs where they also want to win every trophy there is. So I know the mentality. Those players like Callum McGregor and James Forrest are the role models.

“They show you that it’s all about winning trophies. That’s what we’ll try to do next year as well. The stress of that has helped us. It was not always easy, but it brought us even closer together and in the end we did well.”

Read more:

On the former point, Kuhn hails his manager as integral in maintaining calm behind the scenes. Rodgers’ presence and authoritiveness are central tenets that underpin this process, reckons Kuhn, while his unwavering confidence in his message helped instil the same degree of assuredness inside the Celtic dressing room.

On the latter point of closeness, Kuhn looks forward to spending time round the clock with his teammates during their upcoming tour of the United States of America later this month.

There, Celtic will play DC United, Manchester City and Chelsea, and while there’s no edge to these encounters on paper, each match offers invaluable preparation ahead of next season’s new-format UEFA Champions League.

“It’s nice to be with the boys,” said Kuhn. “At one point I think we might have had enough of each other. But it’s nice to have that time with the boys. In the hotel before games, it’s always nice to be with them. We’re looking forward to it.

“It’s really important for us to have those tests against big teams in America. It’s great preparation for the Champions League as well, and good for us to see where we stand.

“It was always the biggest dream I had, to play in the Champions League. I was on loan at Bayern Munich to a second league team in Germany.

“I did an interview when I was there, and I said that my goal is to one day play in the Champions League and one day in the national team. One of those goals I hope I will reach next season.”

As if contextualising his own overarching drive as an individual and an athlete, Kuhn’s answer when asked if he can achieve his second goal after that is as direct as any winger operating under Brendan Rodgers’ tutelage.

“Exactly,” said the 24-year-old.