Celtic’s Mikael Lustig denies disrespect towards St Johnstone

Mikael Lustig says Celtic have moved on to a completely different level under Brendan Rodgers. Picture: SNS.
Mikael Lustig says Celtic have moved on to a completely different level under Brendan Rodgers. Picture: SNS.
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Mikael Lustig has dismissed suggestions his rabona pass in the build-up to Celtic’s exceptional fifth goal in their 5-2 win at St Johnstone last Sunday displayed any lack of respect towards their opponents.

As a piece of individual skill, hooking the kicking leg behind the standing leg to cross or shoot often divides opinion in the game. In the English Premier League in recent times, Erik Lamela at Spurs and former West Ham player Dmitri Payet were both lauded and condemned in equal measure for employing the trick during games.

Lustig was an unlikely candidate to become the first to use it in a high-profile Scottish fixture and the Swedish right-back insists there was no intention on his part to rub salt in the wounds of an already beaten St Johnstone side at a late stage of the game.

“I would absolutely disagree that it’s disrespectful,” said Lustig. “Of course, if you are standing near the corner flag doing step-overs, then I can buy that. But it was a pass, and a good pass as well, so I don’t see that it’s disrespectful. I’m not sure I’m going to do it again, but we’ll see.”

Lustig was booked after the full-time whistle at McDiarmid Park following a flare-up with Saints player Liam Craig who was also cautioned, but he does not believe it was because of his rabona pass.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “He [Craig] kicked me a little bit and after we shook hands. It’s no problem.

“I don’t practise the rabona in training. It’s something I have tried before but it is going to be a big thing when it is part of a goal.

“It was just an instinctive thing. It’s not as if I’m thinking of doing it before the game, I’m not that type of player. But I got the ball and it was on my left foot, so I thought ‘why not?’

“It was a great goal. Callum McGregor’s backheel after my rabona was brilliant as well. We made over 20 passes before it, with every member of the team touching the ball before Moussa Dembele finished it, so that’s a really good goal.

“I’m not sure I’ve been part of a goal like that before. I’ve played in teams who have a lot of possession, so maybe.

“I tried an overhead kick earlier in the game and that didn’t work out quite so good! But, yeah, it shows you the confidence the team is playing with right now. When you have 
confidence in your game, you can try things like that.”

Lustig, who joined Celtic in 2012, recently signed a new contract which commits him to the club until 2019 and he is enthused about the future under the management of Brendan Rodgers.

“I hope this can be a special time for Celtic,” said the 30-year-old. “I signed the new deal because I really like playing for this club and what’s going on at this club right now seems fun and I want to be a part of it.

“I might have stayed anyway, but of course it helps that the manager is here and wants to take us forward as a Champions League team. It feels like Celtic are going somewhere now, that we can bring in 
players of real quality.

“We aim to be a steady team in Europe as well. The club is at a completely different level now under this manager, 100 per cent. You just look at the signings we can do, Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele have come in.

“They are really good players. Over the last two years we maybe wouldn’t have gone for those kind of signings.

“I don’t know how long the manager will be here. You need to ask him but I think he really enjoys his time here at Celtic. He has been a Celtic fan since he was a kid. I think that he will want to be here for a couple of years at least, to form this club, and he’s started 
really well.”