HARALD BRATTBAKK believes that Celtic have landed a modern day equivalent of Jackie McNamara or Tom Boyd in the form of Mikael Lustig.
The Parkhead club revealed yesterday that the 24-year-old Sweden internationalist will join on a pre-contract from Bratbakk’s former club Rosenborg, and the former Celtic striker told Herald Sport last night that the club are more likely to have signed a raiding right-back than the solution to their central defensive conundrum.
Although he stands 6ft 3in tall, Brattbakk feels most of Lustig’s best work comes in forward areas of the field, where he has scored 14 goals in his 93 appearances for the Trondheim club.
Rosenborg have won the Noregian Tippeligaen twice during his three and-a-half years at the club, although his and the club’s form has been decidedly more patchy this season.
“I think he has been a good player in the three-and-a-half seasons he has been here but like everybody else at Rosenborg he has been a little bit up and down this year,” Brattbakk said. “If you were to ask me ‘is he going to play centre-half or right-back?’ I would say right-back. But he is tall so he can obviously be tried out in central defence as well. That is something that you recognise in a good player – that he is able to play in a number of positions – but I think his best attribute is to be an attacking right-back and to be able to join in with the attacks.
“I remember Tom Boyd was quite an effective right-back, or Jackie McNamara, who was more mobile and could also play right midfield. Mikael fits into the modern style of play, and at his best moments he has been quite impressive. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the Scottish game, but he should have all the possibilities to make an impact.
“The ability is there but he has to fit in with nine other players as well. There is always excitement as to whether a new player will fit in but Celtic have had plenty of players from Sweden and Norway in the past.”
One cautionary note for Celtic fans was Brattbakk’s concern that the player could benefit from a rest after the arduous Norwegian season, and with a prospective Euro 2012 appearance with Sweden to come this summer.
“Sometimes he has been struggling with too many games because he has not had any back-up in his position and has had to play every week,” Brattbakk said. “His physical condition is very good but, obviously, he will need rest at some point. There is no point in pushing through the last part of this season, Euro 2012, then straight into the next season without a break. Then you won’t see the best of him.”
Celtic are not short of options at right-back, with Adam Matthews, Cha Du-Ri and Mark Wilson already competing for a starting berth. However, Neil Lennon was attracted by Lustig’s versatility and the Celtic manager has admitted that he is looking forward to working with his new signing.
“We are delighted to bring Mikael to Celtic,” said Lennon. “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, but he’s predominantly a right-back.”