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Winning mentality means Miku is more than a big-game player

NICOLAS Ladislao Fedor Flores, aka Miku, has a few notable notches on his metaphorical goalpost.

The 27-year-old Venezuelan is a man who has scored a double against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last season, and beaten an Argentina side containing Lionel Messi in a World Cup qualifying tie in Puerto La Cruz. But there was only one stadium in the world which could hold a candle to the atmosphere he experienced at Celtic Park during Wednesday night's Champions League opener against Benfica. The Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro ("it is much bigger than Celtic Park, but the people are the same," Miku says). In two years' time, he hopes to be gracing that revamped grand arena of the world game as part of the 2014 World Cup finals.

But it wasn't just glamour matches which brought Miku to Scotland on loan. It is legitimate to question quite how so illustrious a player alighted in the SPL, but after his recent low-key existence at mid-table La Liga side Getafe, the South American enjoyed the reaction to the defeat at St Johnstone as much as the goalless draw against Benfica.

"I have played for big teams," he adds, "Valencia was a big team who fought for championships. But when I came here I wanted to come to a club which must fight in all games for the win. At Getafe, you won, lost or drew and nothing happened. Here the first game we lost and it was terrible, the media, the trainer, the people, everyone was very angry. My agent said I could come here or go to another place, but Celtic has a big history and big players in the past and the present and they play always to win. I want that."

Miku speaks excellent English but some aspects of life in Scotland have been lost in translation – Emilio Izaguirre helps out the best he can – though he has already reached an understanding with Neil Lennon, the manager who joins a distinguished list of the player's former coaches which includes Michael Laudrup, Michel, Ronald Koeman, and Unai Emery – the very man who will be plotting his downfall with Spartak Moscow in the next Champions League matchday. "[Lennon] is a manager with a different mentality than most British managers," says Miku. "When I looked at games when I was young in Venezuela or in Spain you see all the teams here play with the long pass and fighting for the second phase and then after that they start to play. But when I arrived here and he told me the long pass is one way, but it is not the only way. We want to play with the ball on the grass and make it more enjoyable for the public. It is better for me."

In contrast to the high-octane environment of the Champions League or even the routine nature of the SPL, comes Tuesday night's Scottish Communities League Cup tie against Raith Rovers. Lennon, who regards his new frontman as a "class act on and off the field", would love to offer some game time to his other new boys Lassad Nouinoui and Efe Ambrose, not to mention emerging talents like Tony Watt, Dylan McGeouch, Paul Slane and even Rabiu Ibrahim. But this is the only domestic trophy he has yet to get his hands on as a manager and he won't be leaving anything to chance, having had the first division side watched last week. "I'll want to put a strong team out," explains Lennon. "I don't want any banana skins."

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