There is no doubt that a seemingly never-ending run of league titles – soon to be five – and playing in front of 50,000 crowds can be factored in to Mikael Lustig’s decision to accept a new two-year contract at Celtic.
Yet, the number 50 might have figured just as highly in the Swedish defender’s decision to commit himself to the club until 2019. That is the astonishing tally of European games that the 30-year-old has packed into five years in Scotland.
The prospect of many more at the very highest level as Brendan Rodgers drives Celtic forward ensured Lustig was bursting to ink a new deal at a club with which he now feels the deepest bond.
“I like playing here so I’m really happy,” he said. “This almost feels like home now. My family like it here and everything is going well, not just on the football side, but in normal life as well. It feels really good to stay for longer.
“For the first time in a couple of years it feels like we are going for something big. It feels like we are going to get better every year. We have the feeling that we don’t need to sell the best players. We also have a feeling that we want to be in the Champions League, but not just be happy to be in it. We want to develop there so that in a few years we can become a good Champions League team that can get past the group stages. It’s a long road but it feels like we’ve made a good start.”
Now Celtic is a club with which Lustig wants to finish. “Of course” he said in response to whether he would want to end his career at the Scottish champions by signing on beyond 2019.
“Before you come here and you don’t know what Celtic is all about then it’s easy to say that you want to just stay for one or two seasons then go to the Premier League. In my opinion Celtic is a massive club and it’s really hard to get that somewhere else. The money is obviously better down south but it’s hard to find that many clubs in England that are bigger than Celtic.”
Lustig admits he would “absolutely” struggle to adapt to life with a club that did not compete for honours within their set-up.
“I don’t think I am going to play for a bigger club but as long as you are enjoying life and you love to play for the club you should stay here.”
Under Rodgers, it is the very act of staying at Celtic that he believes will offer continued freshness and progression.
“The way he wants to play suits me. I played centre-half before he came, maybe a couple of games a season, but this season I have probably played up to ten games in a back three. I am really enjoying playing in a different way and that has developed me as a player.”