Moritz Jenz on sudden Celtic exit and 'painful' regret as Wolfsburg defender opens door on transfer return

His time at Celtic was short and sweet. But Moritz Jenz packed a lot into his whirlwind six months in Glasgow.

From thrashing Rangers 4-0 to starring in the Champions League against Real Madrid, it's little wonder the German instantly fell in love with the Hoops. The big defender joined on a season-long loan from Ligue 1 side Lorient last term and hit the ground running with two goals in his first couple of games.

Jenz didn't take long to settle into life at Parkhead either, as he was reunited with ex-Fulham teammate Matt O'Riley - who had a major role to play in his close pal's move.

"Matt is one of my best mates, we've known each other since Fulham," Jenz told Football Scotland in an exclusive interview.

"It was just incredible. My coach was Peter Grant at Fulham and he was always speaking about Celtic. For me, it was a mystery, a dream to play for them one time and Matt kept telling me. I saw a derby where they won the game and I thought, 'Wow, I want to be there'.

"I asked Matt to maybe speak to the gaffer and he said 'Don't worry, I always speak nicely about you. There's no issue.' I spoke to Ange and he was great. He was very clear and I felt immediately that I wanted to do it. It really was a pleasure and I feel proud to be part of that."

As far as new signings go, Jenz couldn't have dreamt of a better start after scoring in his first two games away to Ross County and Kilmarnock. With Carl Starfelt sidelined through injury, Jenz was thrown into the deep end and formed a tight partnership with Cameron Carter-Vickers at the back.

The powderkeg occasions came thick and fast and the stopper savoured an unforgettable Glasgow derby debut by coming off the bench in an epic win at Celtic Park.

"It was very special because it's so well talked about all around the world," he said. "I think it's the oldest derby still going in the top-flight? It's just crazy, especially the way we won and the whole stadium doing the zombie as well. It was special, a real honour. I would've liked to have played away at Ibrox to experience that one as well. But like I said, once you've seen that type of rivalry and passion, nothing scares you anymore. It was a really good thing for me to learn as a player as well. It's more than just a game."

That emphatic win set Celtic up perfectly for the mouthwatering visit of Champions League holders, Real Madrid. A bucket list fixture the green-and-white faithful had long yearned for, Ange Postecoglou's side could have pulled off one of the most famous results in the club's history had Celts taken their chances.

Callum McGregor rattled the woodwork and Daizen Maeda scuffed a golden chance at the back post before Real's class and power prevailed, running out eventual 3-0 winners.

Jenz recalled: "I think if he [McGregor] hits that one and it goes in, I think we could've taken the game. I thought first-half we were really into the face of them, they couldn't cope with the dynamic of the game and obviously with the crowd as well. There were so many games where we could've scored the first one, like a tap-in - Maeda falls over. It's a real shame because we had a good campaign. Obviously it didn't look good with the points but it was a shame."

Celtic fans left Jenz's wife in tears that night - tears of joy, that is.

He said: "The atmosphere was electric. The first game was incredible. My wife was crying, she had tears because of how passionate everybody was around the stadium. It's a religion basically. Then the sound when the anthem comes and you can't hear anything, you can't hear the anthem at all."

Jenz's solid and wholehearted performances quickly earned him the trust of the demanding Celtic crowd. He played in every Champions League group stage game before falling out of favour after the 2022 Qatar World Cup. So what happened?

"After the tour in Australia, I was drifting out of the XI. Carl came back and I was on loan. Carl and CCV were performing quite well together so a winning team needs to play, that's normal. He [Starfelt] was also a player of Celtic the previous season so it was also important for him to play. There are many factors, I don't want to point the finger at anyone.

"It's like that unfortunately, but for me, it was great playing all the games. I did my job, at the end it was good for me to get the next move. It also got me away from France at the end of the day, which was most important for me."

Postecoglou is known to hold a distant relationship with his players but the Aussie's door was always open. Having racked up 19 appearances in the first period of the campaign, it was only natural that Jenz would respectfully seek answers over his sudden lack of minutes.

He said: "At some point, I had a conversation with him about this and he told me 'It's nothing personal. At the moment, they are doing quite well together and you wait for your chance.'"