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Fullname: Carl Mikael Lustig
aka: Mikael Lustig, PC Lustig
Born: 13 Dec 1986
Birthplace: Umeå, Sweden
Signed: 1 Jan 2012
Left: 19 Jun 2019 (free to Gent (Belgium))
Position: Defence, Right-back
Debut: Aberdeen 1-1 Celtic, League, 3 Mar 2012
Squad No.: 23
International Caps: ? [complete at end of career]
International Goals: ? [complete at end of career]
|“I love that club and I never thought I would feel such a love for a club.”
Mikael Lustig on Celtic (2019)
Lustig arrived at Celtic as another in the long line of Swedish defenders that have played for Celtic and made a great name for themselves.
One thing’s for sure is that he didn’t half stick out. His stylish/camp/arty/pantomime look with the funny hair and bizarre facial hair styling along with the spreads of tattoos generated amusement. All though saw him as a character, and he seemed to play on it with further changes on style which we’ll leave to readers of Cosmopolitan to comment on.
A Tough Start
Back to football, he was a lucky man. His career at Celtic could have been killed stone dead after his debut. Held responsible for the loss of a goal as an Aberdeen defender escaped Lustig’s marking, his admittedly poor performance was overshadowed by the even poorer debut performance by fellow full-back Andre Blackman. It gave Lustig breathing space and Lennon opted to give the young Lustig further opportunities whilst Blackman was phased out.
There were still concerns, but the coaching staff had confidence in him, and really he just needed some time.
An underwhelming European Championships with Sweden (in 2012) and the early poor feedback on his performances didn’t endear him at first to the Celtic support, but then things changed rapidly.
Given opportunities to play from the start following injuries to Adam Matthews and Izaguirre, Lustig dumbfounded the doubters and he began to slowly impress. Confident and hard-working in defence he was not flash in his play (just in appearance) and provided a good anchor for the side at the back. Moving forward he was quite able also and managed to even chip in some goals.
With matches in the Champions League in 2012/13, it was time to hit the ground running and incredibly he gave mature performances. To his credit, he was even awarded a place in the Champions League team of the week for his performance against Spartak Moscow away (3-2 win) by www.goal.com [admittedly not the official UEFA one]. It was well merited and he was fast becoming a cult favourite for as much his performances as anything else.
He’d now proven himself, having settled in and was giving good performances.
Despite the brash outward appearance, on field he was actually quite an orthodox player and went quietly on with his role without any theatrics. He’d usurped Adam Matthews for the right back role, and made a name for himself as both an effective full back in defence as much as a productive wingback with runs along the wing to supply the forward line. He was also willing to get involved in attack for goals, and was a good headerer of the ball. Sometimes pushed to play at centre-half when injuries forced it, but it never suited him.
No show boater in play and left his on field performances to highlight his worth. A very consistent performer and a very prized player in the squad, be it in Europe or at home. Didn’t matter the competition, he’d always give his best.
Must add that unlike his peer on the other wing (Izzy), Lustig had Adam Matthews competing for the same berth and both were very good talents, so healthy competition for the right back role, and an enviable problem for the Celtic management. Yet he made the position his own, and Adam Matthews in time moved down south.
Frustratingly, injuries were to blight Lustig’s time, and he was ruled out for much of 2013-14 and the following season, and he was regularly in & out for spells. It became a recurring light-hearted joke amongst the supporters about his injury spells, but seriously the injuries as reported meant that for much of the 2014-15 season that he would be playing with a swollen foot which is not easy to work with.
However, on the pitch he would be reliable and immense, and as a fond favourite of the support he was given leeway. Celtic were on a high with Rangers having died and so out of the league, the first team was building up successes, although under Deila there was a trough hit but Lustig stuck it out. Season 2015/16 was poor for performances for Celtic, but Lustig had finally managed to shake off the worst of his injuries and was a regular giving his all.
Brendan Rodgers Era
The arrival of Brendan Rodgers to Celtic helped Lustig as much as the rest, and he was as key as the higher profile members of the squad who helped push Celtic towards Champions League participation in the group stages as well as achieving the ‘InVIncibles‘ tag by winning all three domestic trophies undefeated. Add in the long unbeaten run, then as a near ever present though the league campaign, he had much to be praised for. The defence was immense and he was a notable part.
One of his most celebrated moments (or most praised) was his ‘Rabona‘ bit of skill against St Johnstone in Feb 2016, which after a 20+ passing move by the Celtic players, Lustig provided the final assist by passing the ball via a Rabona (i.e. kicking the ball after wrapping one leg behind the other). It was a sublime bit of skill and entertainment, and showed an ability and arrogance that we all loved. It highlighted his character and playfulness, which we all adored and made the successes in the season even sweeter.
That goal was even shortlisted for FIFA’s prestigious Puskas Award, which awards the player adjudged to have scored the most aesthetically significant, or “most beautiful”, goal of the year. It was the first time this had happened for Celtic, and even though it was Dembele who scored it, it was really Lustig who made it “most beautiful” and the support would all attribute it to him.
He may not have been the most skilled of the squad players, but he he was a committed defender, and was as important as many other more lauded players. He used the talent he had well, in tackling, defensive rearrangement (to fit in where needed) and clearances to ensure that Celtic were always on track. He was very worthy of all the silverware that he won as part of Celtic in this grand era.
As a cherry on the cake for Lustig, he scored the final goal in the 5-1 trouncing of Sevco in 2016-17 season, which was a fine goal following a mazy run by himself.
His emotions at the end of the 2016-17 season in the final match v Aberdeen really sent the message across that this guy really was embedded in the whole culture of the club. It was remarkable, and humbling. He was more than just a cult personality, in the same way that for certain others are also taken wholly to the heart of the support.
One comical incident was that in a game in 2018 v TheRangers, in a goal celebration, Lustig pinched a policeman’s hat and put it on for a laugh. The policeman saw the funny side of it and so did the Celtic support, but some rabid opposition fans tried to report him for it. Both Lustig (‘PC Lustig‘) and the Celtic support just laughed even more.
What always stood out was his happiness at being at Celtic, and playing for the first team. Always professional but able to have humour too on the pitch. He could stand up for himself too which was great, and was no clown as many found out to their cost.
Inevitably, the injuries and age were going to start hitting him a some time, and season 2017-18 saw him hit that wall. His speed was a concern, especially against European sides, and his form was beginning to be affected. You couldn’t disagree with the effort, but more than that was needed especially as for a long period he didn’t always have the strong defensive partners in the centre-half roles to help out (as they were performing far more poorly).
His red card v Aberdeen was heavily criticised in Feb 2018, but really it was awarded as he was clearly making fouls as he couldn’t keep up with the game as once could. He wasn’t fully at the races in games anymore. He was still a worthy first team player, but even his great sympathisers knew that time was running down for him especially in a side that was trying to be ambitious under Brendan Rodgers. The struggle to find a replacement, and also the obvious defensive weaknesses of the Celtic back line, meant he was an easy target but hardly alone to blame for the faults (there were a number of headaches).
Despite the various players brought in to either rotate with Lustig for the right-back role, none seemed to be able to match him. That included Janko from the Man U stable and Gamboa who played a blinder in World Cup 2018 against Brazilian star Neymar. There was something that Lustig could bring that was ineffable, even as his talent declined. Then again, Rodgers was also being loyal to him in the same way that Lustig was every loyal to Celtic.
You never heard Lustig getting into trouble, or whinging to the press or pushing for a transfer. He could have chanced a big money move to England but he was happy and that was priceless. His one season colleague Guidetti, who was also Swedish, moved to Spain in the belief that that would be greater than playing for Celtic and would enhance his chances with the national side. As Lustig was to prove, Guidetti was wholly wrong, and it was a warning to others.
However, poor performances in certain matches were increasingly raising discontent over his place in the team (for example a very poor match v Salzburg away in a 3-1 defeat in the UEFA Cup) in late 2018. It was not personal, he was hitting a wall. Teams were clearly beginning to target him (especially in Europe) as his pace was declining.
Lustig may have been in decline but he was still a fine stalwart, and his value was being proved by the difficulty to replace him, e.g. Ralston, Toljan etc. He gave his all, and despite the price tag on Tojan (€7m), Lustig proved he was despite his age, a far superior player.
Lustig sealed his cult following with scoring the opener with a diving header in a 3-0 victory over Aberdeen in 2019, which sealed the league title for 8 in a row. However, he was taken off later in the match, with a hamstring injury which almost sealed the end of his season. He regained the first team slot and played on to the Scottish Cup final, where incredibly he set up the winner with returning a header that set up Eduoard to run on and score the winner in a 2-1 victory v Hearts. It was a proud moment for Lustig and all, capped off by the lifting of the trophy, whereby Brown asked Lustig to jointly receive & raise the trophy with him.
It was inevitable that this was the end, and he was on his way. Possibly better now than one who was struggling as age, wear & tear were impacting him. He was a long time stalwart at the club. It’s quite humorous when you now look back on his career following his poor debut which could have killed stone dead his Celtic career, but he overcame that and achieved whilst his fellow debutant full-back (Andre Blackman) floundered.
Lustig was a favourite son of the support, and a key stalwart through those 8 years or so service. Affable, dependable and dedicated, he was a fine player for Celtic, and all would miss him once gone. He clearly loved the club & the support, and returned it all in spades. He will be very much identified with this decade with Celtic.
He was sadly leaving as Celtic were heading for a ninth title in a row, and he had been there for the past eight titles in a row through all the dramas, the ups and downs and all the celebrations too. He was a notable but often unheralded part of this achievement, but will not be forgotten.
He left to Gent (Belgium) in June 2019, and the tributes were flowing across social media from the Celtic support in honour of him and his family who had really settled well in Scotland. We wished him the best.
His career continued well after he left Celtic, even playing in all the matches for Sweden in Euro 2020 (played in 2021 due to Covid) where they got past the group stages. Fellow ex-Celt Jon Guidetti (who thought he was too good for Celtic & Scottish football) didn’t even make the squad. Many Celtic fans supported Sweden in their matches in appreciation of Lustig.
|APPEARANCES||LEAGUE||SCOTTISH CUP||LEAGUE CUP||EUROPE||TOTAL|
|2017-18||25 (1)||4 (0)||3 (0)||14 (0)||46 (1)|
|2018-19||26 (1)||3 (0)||3 (0)||8 (3)||40 (4)|
Honours with Celtic
Scottish League Cup
“I really love to play for this club so it was never a hard choice. I can play in Europe every year, the fans are amazing, and if I want to change clubs I will need to pick a smaller club. Maybe more money, but it’s going to be a smaller club. I’m not that good to choose a bigger club than Celtic and my family really love it here as well so it was never a hard choice.”
Mikael Lustig (2014)
‘Rangers fans might want to take a picture, do a film, posing as Celtic fans then saying something Rangers. I might then say ‘5-1’, and then walk away laughing’.
Mikael Lustig (2017)
“I love that club and I never thought I would feel such a love for a club.”
Mikael Lustig (2019)
“For me, the most special title was last season because we won the treble for the third time in a row, which had never happened in Scotland. “But I’m not a trophy collector – the most important thing was not the trophies but the recognition of people. “In terms of managers, Neil Lennon persuaded me to move to Celtic so he is the most important coach for me. “Tactically, the best was Brendan Rodgers…a true perfectionist. “I only regret that he left the way he did. When you say you are a fan of Celtic you do not quit the club in February. “I do not approve of his choice and he knows it.”
Mikael Lustig (2019)
“All 8 years at Celtic were one long highlight.”
Mikael Lustig to a Belgian newspaper (2019)
Celtic delighted to sign Mikael Lustig
By: Newsroom Staff on 23 Nov, 2011 13:54 CELTIC are delighted today to announce the signing of Mikael Lustig from Rosenborg on a pre-contract agreement. The agreement means that Mikael will join Celtic on January 1, 2012, on a three-and-a-half year contract.
The player is thrilled to be making the move to Celtic and cannot wait to get started. He said: “This is a really exciting time for me and I am delighted to be committing my future to Celtic.
“I know a lot about Celtic, about the size of the Club, the world-famous supporters and about the quality squad of players which is already there. I´m really looking forward to joining this squad, to the challenges ahead and hopefully playing my part in bringing some success to the Club.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon said: “We are delighted to bring Mikael to Celtic. We believe he has the qualities to make a real impact at the Club and we look forward to him joining us in January.
“He is a player with international pedigree and a defender with great versatility.He is someone who I feel will be a very positive addition to the squad.
“I like his attributes and he can play both positions (right-back and centre-half), but he´s predominantly a right-back.”
Hard to top this year
UMEÅ-GLASGOW. He aimed for the stars and dreamed of Juventus.
Mikael Lustig, 30, methodically made his way from Sandåkern, Umeå FC, Gif Sundsvall and Rosenborg to star status in both the national team and Celtic.
A unique treble in Scotland and strong performances in the national team in the past year are in the progress of earasing what that the right-back has become most famous for so far – the mistake at the post in the 2012 European championships.
– It will be hard for me to top what I have experienced this past year, Lustig says.
The youth recreation leader at Rödängsskolan in Umeå can only smile at the thin schoolboy with the big interest in football and the slightly cocky air.
On breaks and after school football is the thing – in the school yeard, on the patch of grass in the housing area or on the grass pitch at Rödäng. His twin sister Malin is almost just as interested in sports as well.
The youth recreation leader has played for Crystal Palace, in a short space of time he reached iconic status with Djurgården and he is now a celebrated star in the big city in Västerbotten, but the ten-year old has Alessandro Del Piero as his big hero and so his future is mapped out. It is not hard to provoke the young goal poacher into saying what he is aiming for:
– I am going to play for Juventus! Mikael Lustig says.
Steve Galloway gives a satisfied laugh sitting at his workplace at Umeå Airport and talks about a few of his first meetings in the mid 1990s with the schoolboy who 15 or so years on became the obvious first-choice right back for the national team.
Galloway is just as happy with his description of the player he later coached, first at Sandåkerns SK and then at Umeå FC as well:
– Micke wanted to take care of everything. If he takes a corner, he wants to score a header from it himself.
– He has the energy and the stamina to do it, too, Galloway says with a laugh.
He is happy to talk about Mikael Lustig after yet another sueccessful year for the defender.
But it only takes a second for the 54-year old’s voice to become more serious.
– Did you see Micke’s picture anywhere here at the airport? In anything else you have read about Umeå?
– No, exactly. What’s that we say in Sweden? It is hard to become a prophet in your own hometown.
– I think that Lustig deserves more credit for what he has done for football from here. Who’s bigger? Maybe Jesper Blomqvist, Galloway says.
Sandåkerns SK’s clubhouse in the northern pard of Grubbeskolan school in Umeå doesn’t look like much from the outside. Ten years ago, houses were built on the land where Sandåkern had their clubhouse at the time and the lion’s chare of their activities and the club had to move.
Sandåkern were given 400 000 kronor to convert their new premises. The money didn’t go a long way and a couple of years later the Council said no to a new grant or interest-free loan for a new clubhouse.
There have been no tens of millions like for a Victor Nilsson Lindelöf-transfer to Manchester United here.
The inside of the premises bear witness to a club with everything in good order.The website is not the most modern, but pedagogically describes Sandåkerns Sportklubb’s vision, concept and fundamental values.
There is no doubt about the pride in one of the club’s greatest sons either.
Through parents of the old P86-team Alexander Lindgren, who works for the club, has got a hold of pictures of a young Mikael Lustig.
One of the old coaches, Roland Sundelin, 58, sits in the sofa looking curiously at the photos:
– There we are by the old facilities. We played on sand grass there. We were there or at the small gravel pitch at the edge of the Rödäng housing area, where many of the boys, including the Lustigs, lived, Roland Sundelin says.
When did these boys start to play organised fotball?
– When we got the nine-year olds together into a team, there were twelve boys in the team and Micke was one of them. Micke’s father Mats was involved as a coach and his mother Ulla was an involved spectator.
What was he like as a player then?
– Outstanding, Roland Sundelin says.
– He was the youngest of them, born in December. Thin as all hell. When he ate hamburgers, he only at the meat, none of the other stuff.
– He couldn’t stop scoring. He scored half our goals. We wanted to play good football, have a good passing game. We could practice sidefoot passes for an hour. We got Micke to submit to the team and almost, but just almost, be just as happy making a pass for a goal. He could really have gone past the last defender and scored himself.
Sandåkern’s closely-knit P86-team won most things they entered.
– Gimonäs had two good players; foreign boys. We lost to them occasionally, but we won the league all the time. We could lose the odd cup game and then Micke ran away, crying. He disappeared for a while and then he came back after a while once he had calmed down.
But suddenly the player with the big talent became just another player.
– When we switched to playing 11-a-side, things became chaotic for Micke who had started growing. He was like a calf; he couldn’t get synchronized when he was running. Our keeper, Erik Wännström, had the same problem, Roland Sundelin says.
– It was hard for Micke, after all he was going to go to Juventus and his knees started bothering him, Osgood-Schlatter disease.
In summer 2001 Sundelin had to select the 15-year olds who were going to attend the elite boys’ camp in Halmstad as the district manager of Västerbotten.
Several of the players from Sundelin’s and Sandåkerns P86-team were selected, but not Mikael Lustig.
– Micke was very disappointed, but he took it the right way. The following year he had caught up with and passed all the boys his age physically again. Then he was just as dominant as when we had played 7-a-side, Roland Sundelin says.
Mikael Lustig was born December 1986. A few months later Björklöven won the Swedish ice hockey championships, but Lustig has never seriously tried ice hockey.
– Both my twin sister Malin and I played football and floorball at an early age. I don’t know if it was because of our mother, that she was scared, I never tried practicing ice hockey and playing games. I have never been close. In my group of friends only two of the boys played hockey, Mikael Lustig tells me when we have taken a seat in one of the corporate boxes inside the mythical Celtic Park.
– As soon as I had spare time I was out playing football with my friends on the grass pitch were we lived or down on the gravel pitch at Rödäng, where we played games later on. When we got older, we took our bikes to Sandåkern’s ground, which was five minutes from home. It was natural for me to start playing football with Sandåkern, who are from the area I grew up in in Umeå.
– In seven-a-side I think we cleaned up for a year and won every game when we were 9-10 years old. When we did lose a game, that was the end of the world for us. Everyone cried. We were really dominant.
How much did Mikael Lustig cry?
– Hahaha. I was probably one of the ones who took it the hardest.
It’s no exaggaration to say that you were an extremely bad loser?
– No, that’s true. That’s probably the case for many athletes who have gone far. If you’re going to succeed, losing has to hurt.
Your mother, Ulla, has said in an interview that you couldn’t even play board games at home.
– That’s probaly true. Fortuntately, I’ve handled things like that better with age. But in football I can still think losing is difficult.
His first big setback came in 2001 when Lustig wasn’t selected for either the district team or handpicked for Umeå FC:s new youth team.
– I was better at floroball and it was more fun at the time. I wasn’t very happy being number seven or eight in a local football team at the time.
What happened to turn it around?
– So much happens at that age. There were boys who had no talent at all when we played seven-a-side. Then all of a sudden they reached puberty much earlier and grew big and strong. I caught up with them when I was 15-16 years and then I felt that my talent, which was at the high end, was in step with my physique.
In 2002 Mikael Lustig, the ruthless former striker and goal scorer, made his debut for Sandåkern’s first team in division four as a 15-year old.
– We didn’t have a right back for that game. And that’s how it started, Lustig says.
The coach of the Sandåkern first team at the time was Steve Galloway, who had finished his career in the big team in the city, Umeå FC, a few years earlier. Galloway was already familiar with Lustig. As a schoolboy a young Mikael Lustig had told youth recreation leader Galloway how he was aiming for the stars and was going to play for Juventus in Italy.
After his success in senior football with the Sandåkern first team in division four Umeå FC signed Lustig. A year later Galloway also joined as the manager of Umeå FC in divison one north.
– I continued to go with Micke as a right back. He covered the entire side; he was constantly running up and down. This wasn’t anything I had to tell him; he just did it, Galloway says.
– We had two fantastic full-backs – Micke on the right and André Ghanbari as the left-back. Two super attacking full-backs. After the games the opposing coaches would come to me and say that they couldn’t handle ”the two boys running up and down the wings all the time”.
– Micke was still very young; not the best player in the team, but he had a lot of potential to develop. He wasn’t shy, didn’t stand aside and worked hard at training, Galloway says and, laughing, he adds:
– He was still going to play for Juventus, just like he told me when he was in school.
After two seasons at Umeå FC Mikael Lustig was ready for the next step and moved to Gif Sundsvall in Allsvenskan.
– Micke Dahlberg had gone to Giffarna (Gif Sundsvall) the year before and they knew each other well. Going to Giffarna was a natural step when you were from here. I was happy that Micke moved. He should be playing at a higher level, Steve Galloway says.
Roland Sundelin can’t believe his eyes. He has sat down in the couch in front of the TV in his home to watch the TV show Landet Runt, as he always does. In a competition viewers have to name a famous person using various clues.
In the first part, the reporter Tobias Johansson sits on a substitutes’ bench by a football pitch and says that the person they are looking for ”started his career at the club Sandåkern”.
That’s great! Roland Sundelin thinks, Micke Lustig is the correct answer.
But when the next clue is played in the popular TV show, his mood changes.
The TV reporter hugs a lamppost and says: ”Many people have had a bit of fun at the expense of the Umeå resident, and, to have a joke, this is actually how to guard a post”.
– No, this pisses me right off, Roland Sundelin mutters in his couch.
– This is so effing ridiculous it’s untrue. Micke has made one big mistake in his caeer. But every player at that level has made more mistakes than Micke Lustig has made and it’s been more than five years since that damn mistake with the post.
Aside from being left out of the Västerbotten district team in 2001, Mikael Lustig’s career followed a smooth path.
The right back was one of the best players for Giffarna and after helping the team back to Allsvenskan, he made his debut for the national team at the age of 21 in 2008 during the January tour. Lustig takes the next step in his club career and moves to the Norwegian club Rosenborg that summer.
In 2009 he has his breakthrough with the Swedish people during the Under-21 Euros at home along with Marcus Berg, Ola Toivonen, Rasmus Elm and Pontus Wernbloom.
Mikael Lustig wins his first major titles when his Reosenborg win the Norwegian championship two years in a row. The right back is ready for het another change of clubs, to Celtic, the big Scottish club.
– It feels like I have had a bit of luck in connection with my club changes. Each team has needed a right back and their previous right back was one of the best players in the team. Umeå FC failed to gain promotion to Superettan, but the right back moved to Friska Viljor. There was a place available at UFC when I got there and I got to play right away.
– When I went to Giffarna, Fredrik Lundqvist was Sundsvall’s best player and he moved to Viking Stavanger. It was the same at Rosenborg. I have always had good timing when I’ve moved.
Has this been a conscious choice?
– No, I would probably have chosen those clubs anyway.
Has any change of clubs been more important than any other?
– No, they’ve all been important. I think that I’ve made great strides at all clubs when I have joined them. I have been able to play important roles even though I’ve been new and young. All of them have been good steps, Mikael Lustig says.
But in summer 2012 Mikael Lustig goes from popular to the big scapegoat of Swedish football when he lets Andriy Schevchenko’s header from a corner go past him in the space between him and the post in the first game of the Euros against Ukraine.
Lustig’s mistake is lampooned frequently under the heading #hållstolpen in social media.
Lustig and I are standing inside Celtic Park, the stands are empty and down on the pitch the groundskeepers are working on the grass and when I remind Mikael Lustig of the game at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, his mood turns as grey and dreary as the autumn weather over Glasgow.
– Right then and there it was extremely hard. It’s something I still carry with me, he says of the repercussions of his mistake by the post.
Does it bother you?
– Everything got so extremely big. Unfortunately, when I stop playing, it will be one of the things that sticks with me.
Did you move on in a good way?
– Not really, I pretty much kept it to myself. Most people probably thought I was doing quite alright. The best thing about football is playing a new game and doing something good instead. That’s the best medicine.
Did you suffer because of it?
– Yes, of course I did. Sometimes I felt a bit sorry for myself, sometimes I got a bit angry and sometimes I wanted to blame something else. It’s been so long now, I’ve let it go now. But those were a rough few weeks.
Did anyone help you when they saw how it was covered, in social media?
– No. I kept it to myself and most people probably thought it was cool.
How did the people closest to you react?
– Some of them probably thought it was hard. I can take crap. But a lot of other people suffered with me.
In purely footballing terms – explain the situation again.
– It was an outswining corner and in that event I was supposed to step out into the first zone. If it had been an inswinger I was supposed to remain by the post.
– I am not someone to deflect blame, but maybe it would have been appropriate to say what I was really supposed to do.
Should (Hamrén) have said what you were supposed to do?
– He probably had a thousand other things on his mind. If he had known that it would become such a big thing he could have raised it, Lustig says with a sigh.
The year after the Euros Mikael Lustig also has injury problems. At the end of 2013 he is forced to have a hip operation and then there are injuries that follow from that.
– There were two seasons I had a tough time during. At the time it felt like that was it. That my body couldn’t handle playing so many games.
– I was injured for three weeks, returned and played two games and then I had a new injury and was out for two weeks. I never got into a good rhythm, Doing rehab and missing so many fun games and internationals isn’t very fun either.
What saved you?
– I went back to what I did at Rosenborg when I was there. I didn’t miss a game for 3.5 years. What did I do before the games, what kind of strength training did I do? Now I have started training a lot on my own at Celtic, both before and after the games in the gym.
What is it you’re training then?
– Well, it’s not muscles at any rate…hahaha.
– A lot of preventive training: groins, hamstrings, and things like that, Lustig says.
Mikael Lustig looks around the changing room in the inner sanctum of Celtic Park. To his right is the Frenchman Odsonne Edouard, immediately to his left the Englisman Kundai Benyu. Brendan Rodgers, the manager, is smart. The two 19-year olds have a lot to learn and can benefit greatly from sitting next to one of the best players in the team, one of the most experienced, the leader Mikael Lustig.
The sound of the studs against the tiled floor is drowned out more and more by the sound of the crowd as the players leave the changing rooms with the stylish, classic wooden benches and the wooden cabinets, turn left and enter the tunnel where the walls are decorated with names of thousands of supporters, living and dead, engraved in the white-tiled bricks.
In a vote of football supporters, FIFA names the Celtic fans as the best in the world in autumn 2017.
In spite of more than 200 games for Celtic, it is impossible for Mikael Lustig to be unfazed.
– It’s a great atmosphere.
In the stands, eight friends from Umeå– Anton Ahlgren, Markus Westberg, Joakim Vikström, Gustav Broadhall, Erik Wännström, Nils Bylund, Gustaf Persson and Christoffer Routledge – have taken their seats.
The whole group of friends are staying with Mikael Lustig, his wife Josefin and their daughters Lucia, 6, and Lexie, 3.
– My family thinks it’s great fun when they visit. They’ve been to Sundsvall and Trondheim as well. Us in the Rödäng gang stick together. It’s fantastic for all of us to be able to experience this, Lustig says.
Even if it’s not the Allianz Stadium in Turin.
After Zlatan Ibrahimovic winning the Guldbollen award for the best male Swedish football player eleven times in the past 12 years, in autumn 2017 it is much more uncertain who is going to receive the most prestigious award in Swedish football this year.
Gary Ralston, a reporter for Scottish newspapaper the Daily Record, thinks that Sportbladet’s visit to Glasgow to one of the likely Guldbollen candidates is highly justified, but also points out:
– Michael, you should be here to see Lustig more often. He has grown into a great player, a leader and a personality the fans love.
– So you understand how good he is: in my eyes he is the second best Swedish player in Scotland ever – only King Henrik is ahead of him Ralston says.
In the 2015/16 season Mikael Lustig and Celtic won the double in Scotland. When Janne Andersson took over the reins as national team manager after Hamrén, Lustig took another step forward in the same way he has methodically taken step by step previously in his career. In the Swedish national team he combines strong performances in the World Cup qualifiers with three goals for the national team in the past year.
In the 2016/17 season Lustig wins the treble (league, cup and league cup) with Celtic and the team goes through the league undefeated, setting records for the number of points and goals scored.
When the right back is one of the few players to reach his normal standard in the loss to Bulgaria in the World Cup qualifiers, Sportbladet’s Erik Niva tweets:
”Apart from Z I would seriously contend that, overall, Mikael Lustig has been the best player in the Swedish national team over the past five years”.
– I feel that I’ve maintained a stable level for the national team for a long period of time. I think playing for the national team is incredibly enjoyable, Lustig says as we look out over Celtic Park.
Have you hade the best year of your career?
– In club terms, absolutely. We won the treble, we didn’t lose a single game in Scotland, we beat a lot of records. Topping that is hard.
What would winning Guldbollen mean to you?
– It would be something extreme. It would feel surreal. Something I wouldn’t even have been able to dream about. I’ve never even entertained the thought, he says, spreading his arms.
What has the past year meant to you personally?
– A new manager, a new style of playing, has been extremely educational. I have gone from being an attacking full-back to being a more important player defensively – I have played centre back or as part of three at the back. I have been given a different role in which I handled a lot of the passes forward.
– Running up and down a wing wears on your body once you get older. If you’re going to play more than 50 games a year, placing strain on your body differently is healthy. I know that I am a good passer and able to contribute in several ways. Our left-back, Kieran Tierney, is a young guy who is extremely good and he is very involved going forward.
What has Brendan Rodgers meant for you?
– A lot. He is a fantastic manager. Without a doubt the best one I’ve had. He knows exactly what he wants.
– We are so good that we can change our tactics and our style of playing from game to game or during games. We have played with three at the back, and with four or five at the back and Rogers tells what to do and why. I’ve learned incredibly much from him the past year.
With the former youth recration leader Steve Galloway’s story of Mikael Lustig’s ambitions och dreams as a ten-year old ringing in my ears, the question is unavoidable:
When will you end up at Juventus?
– Hahaha! You have to have dreams as a child, but when you start to play professional footvall you start to understand how hard getting there is. Then you have to be a bit more realistic. I am very happy with how far I’ve come.
– Before, I’ve always said that I want to come back to Allsvenskan, but the more I am abroad and the more I play for Celtic, the more I can imagine ending my careeer here. We are so happy here. After six years I love the club, my family is happy and schools for our daughters works well. A lot would have to happen for me to leave Celtic.
“I had no idea how much this club and everything that comes with it would mean to me when I signed 7.5 years ago. It’s time for me and my family to move on, start a new chapter in life.”To make a post on Instagram isn’t enough to express my feelings and thoughts about the situation. I wish I would’ve had the chance to say a proper good bye.”I just want to say thank you to everyone I’ve had the honour to meet and work with at Celtic, all the players and staff. The memories will stay with me forever.
“Thank you to all of you that made Glasgow feel like home for me and my family for so many years. I will never forget your support.”Hopefully I’ll see you all soon. I’ll definitely be back for the 10 in a row party!”