CELTIC are finally about to see the very best of Mikael Lustig - two-and-a-half years after the Swedish defender joined the club.

The 27-year-old is confident the double hip surgery he successfully underwent in December will allow the man who has won three league titles to raise his game to a new level.

Ultra-positive Lustig played for two years in pain before going under the knife.

Just finishing games became a serious challenge for him as the pain increased with every passing minute he was on the pitch.

But he has now been given a clean bill of health, and believes that will provide the green light for him to push up his performance levels.

As he hopes to bag a new contract from the club to replace the one which is scheduled to end next summer - he confirmed talks have already begun - the timing could not be better.

Lustig said: "That's what I hope, that you will now see an even better Mikael Lustig.

"When I was playing, I was doing really well. But in a lot of games, I was struggling for the last 20 minutes.

"Hopefully that has stopped now.

"There was pain and it felt like the hip was locked, so it was tough for me.

"I had never been out for more than two or three weeks before this, so four months was a long time.

"But I started speaking to the doctors in Sweden about the operation after the European finals two years ago.

"And they told me that, if I want to still play football when I am 33 or 34, I needed to have the operation."

Lustig - who made his comeback after four months out as a sub in the 6-0 rout of Inverness at the weekend -- is delighted all of that is now behind him.

And he has even managed to find a glimmer of comfort from missing out on the World Cup finals with Sweden.

Losing to Portugal in the play-off means he will be ready to go for Celtic when the Champions League qualifiers come around in mid-July.

And, with Fraser Forster, Efe Ambrose and Emilio Izaguirre all expected to be missing as they get time off after Brazil, his experience could be vital for the Hoops.

"It was a huge disappointment to miss the finals," he explained.

"But now I will have some extra time off during the summer, which is nice.

"When I come back for the start of next season, I'm going to be 100% fit, and focused and ready."

Those opening home-leg qualifiers will be staged at Murrayfield Stadium while Celtic Park is put back into football order following the Commonwealth Games.

Lustig has his fingers crossed that, having seen fellow Swede, Johan Mjallby, announce he is heading for the exit, there are not too many more departures.

"I think it is really important to keep the main squad," he said.

"We've been in the Champions League for two years in a row, and that's been the most incredible thing I have done football-wise.

"So, that's the main goal."