Celtic’s Christopher Jullien hit back after Alfredo Morelos ‘tricks’

Christopher Jullien celebrates with his Celtic team-mates after Jonny Hayes' second goal against Rangers at Ibrox last Sunday. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty
Christopher Jullien celebrates with his Celtic team-mates after Jonny Hayes' second goal against Rangers at Ibrox last Sunday. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty
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There is an acknowledgement from Christopher Jullien that following his late June move to Celtic it took him a fair few weeks to come out of his shell.

A “funny moment” when he exchanged words with Jozo Simunovic at training was the point where he felt any early inhibitions had begun firmly to ebb away.

The highly vocal and utterly unyielding manner in which he ensured substitute Alfredo Morelos remained completely under his yoke during the latter stages of Sunday’s derby win at Ibrox demonstrated that Jullien is now at one with his surrounds and the demands of the Scottish champions.

Following a career burnishing his reputation in the French top flight, there should never have been any question about the centre-back’s ability. But at the weekend, as well as repelling all threats in the air and on the ground, the physically imposing performer also served notice that, if he has an opponent mixing it, he possesses all the ingredients to bake them.

So it proved after streetfighter striker Morelos sought to wind up and stamp down on the Celtic defender. The Frenchman became visibly animated and beat his chest and screamed with venom after the Colombian jagged his studs on to his foot.

Jullien revealed yesterday he made plain to Morelos that he would come off second best in this form of going toe to toe. “That’s the game,” said the 26-year-old. “He is a good player and one who tries to use a trick to disturb a defender.

“He stamped on my foot but that’s part of football, it’s kind of like trash talk. There are things like this in every sport.

“Sometimes you can make more of it. But, as I say, it’s part of the game. It’s what I said to him after he stamped on my foot: ‘You can come more and more [at me] for more than one time. The more you come at me, the more the zero stays on that scoreboard’.

“I punched my heart and told him that this is my strength and this is where I come from. A guy like him is not going to put me down.

“No-one is going to put me down. If I’m still on the field, if I can still stand up, then I’ll say what I say.

“I just said to me, ‘Come to me and we’re going to have a fight for sure.’But with me it’s going to come from within, from my heart. I will be ready.”

Jullien’s steadfast approach against Rangers contrasted with his somewhat shaky and ill-at-ease early appearances. Only in retrospect was there any quibbling with Neil Lennon’s decision to leave him on the bench for the Champions League qualifier that Celtic threw away in losing 4-3 at home to Cluj three weeks ago. The player believes that too little consideration was given to the assimilation period which he needed to go through on uprooting from his homeland with Celtic’s pre-season already well underway.

“When I arrived my head was a little full,” he said. “When you settle it’s good. When you are on the field you are focused. But I know it, and I say it, and I repeat it, I play in a position when sometimes you need time.

“You need to know all your team-mates, when you talk to them and give them orders on the field. Sometimes that’s not easy when you’ve just come in and don’t know your team-mates.

“But since I arrived, all my team-mates have been really good with me. The process since has been really good and I’m sure it’s going to improve. Every day I think it’s going to be better, for sure. I’m just feeling more comfortable.”

The loquacious Jullien, who has an easy air in interview, believes it is crucial to be able to chat, cajole and offer up instructive words as well when he crosses the while line. “Communication is a big part of football,” he said. “What we say before each game, just before we enter the field, is: ‘Communicate, communicate’.

“It is more important in my position because we see the game. Sometimes the strikers and midfield don’t see the game so much because it’s behind them.

“So, we need to give out instructions during matches and, for me, it is 50 per cent of our game. We press a lot, and when you press you have to know who is behind you. If you go and press and the guy supposed to be behind isn’t there, it can be a problem.”