AS the great John and Paul once sang, money can’t buy you love.
The £200million superstar was the pantomime villain at Celtic Park on Tuesday during PSG’s 5-0 Champions League thrashing. After being booed throughout the game as well as treating the crowd to his usual theatrics, he capped his goal-scoring night by refusing to shake the hand of Anthony Ralston, the 18-year-old European debutant he ran ragged for 90 minutes.
While some of his play was a footballing masterclass, the man who moved out of Lionel Messi’s shadow in Barcelona and into the Parisian spotlight of the summer still divides opinion over those who adore his talent but take issue with the other facets of his game.
And Lustig, who has gone up against the Brazilian more than once during his time at Celtic, gave his own thoughts about what Neymar should be doing if he wants to be universally loved.
“It was the same as usual from Neymar. He is an unbelievable footballer but we have seen the other stuff before and we will see it again,” said the Swede. “I have said before that it’s part of his game.
“He tries to over-react a bit to make the defender step off. We are going to see it again. He’s up there with the best already – he’s so sharp and is an amazing footballer.
“But if he wants to be liked as much as Messi, maybe he needs to stop that.”
One would probably be considered optimistic if they thought Mr Jr would take much notice of this. At last he is in his happy place.
Plucked from Santos by Barcelona in 2013, Neymar was thrust into what is possibly the greatest ever to play the game with the likes of Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Luis Suarez. In this team of idles, Neymar had to settle for being part of a front three that, for as much as they had Suarez at its apex, truly revolved around the little Argentinian No.10 playing just on the right side.
In Paris, though, it’s a different for story. There PSG have given Neymar the platform to be the star of the show, allowing his ego to swell almost as much as his bank balance. The team around him aren’t that bad either.
“Neymar is probably the toughest opponent in the world right now but Tony did well,” said Lustig of young Ralston’s performance at right back.
“If you spend a lot of money, it is no shock that you will have a team like that. But we were poor in the first half. We didn’t look like ourselves.
“In the second half we were a bit better but they are on a different level. Is it impossible to bridge that gap? You need to have a bit of luck with the chances you get. You need to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible too but I don’t know.
“It was hard. They are probably up there with the very best teams I have faced in my career. We knew we were up against a very good side. They have world-class players in every position.
“They are probably better than Barcelona last year. They have no weak links. Every single player is unbelievable on the ball. We probably created a few more chances against them than we did against Barcelona – but they are an amazing team.”
It says a lot about how the night unfolded that asking Lustig to talk us through his own goal was a fair bit down the list of questions when he braved the press pack after this 5-0 rout. “There was nothing I could do. It his Craig’s hand and went through Tony’s legs. It’s one of those things,” he told us of PSG’s fourth before disappearing into the night.
But really it didn’t matter, and the same could be said of this result. While Brendan Rodgers claimed his team played like 12-year-olds at times, lessons will of course be learned but whether they pass or fail in the Champions League will not come down to how the perform against world football’s super power.
In two weeks Celtic will go to Anderlecht, who themselves lost heavily on match day No.1 to Bayern Munich, in what is largely accepted as a two-way fight for third place. It’s a notion which Lustig himself understands.
“It’s happened before when we have played in Europe against top teams and lost big,” said the defender in a nod to last year’s 7-0 loss in the Nou Camp. “We need to get back on the horse again focus on Ross County.
“Absolutely, the Anderlecht games are the key. Against PSG, if we turn up and have a bad day, and they have a good day, then that result happens.
“That’s the way it is but we feel like we could have created a few more chances against PSG if we’d played well. But if they turn up and play to that level, then it’s hard to stop.”