“The timing of my injury was terrible because I basically missed a full Champions League campaign,” said the 24-year-old, who handled the exam surprisingly well given he is a little short of full fitness. “I got injured three days before the first Champions League game against Real Madrid in the Rangers game [on September 2]. It was a very difficult moment for me personally. I had just come back from injury – I was injured a whole pre-season – and then I came back and played three games, scored two goals and got injured again.
“It was not a good time for me, but these are the things you have to accept in football. There is nothing we can do about it. I’ve been working really hard in the gym to get back as soon as possible. And I’m glad that I was able to play at least one game. Even if it didn’t end so well. I worked so hard for this moment against Real. We are really disappointed with the result, I think we could have made it at least a little closer. It is what it is.”
So is Starfelt’s full rehabilitation. For that, he looks beyond the three games that Celtic have in the next week or so before the domestic closure for the World Cup in Qatar. “I feel pretty good [but] physically I’m not 100 percent. I felt it in the Bernabeu. After the World Cup break, you will see me playing my best football and feeling 100 percent. I worked hard for two months to get back to playing games and I’m happy to be back on the field. My body felt better than I thought, so that’s positive.
“We tried to play our football and we did in large parts, but we were severely punished by a very good team with quality players. We also didn’t really take our chances, which has been a bit characteristic of our Champions League games this year. We learned a lot from that and it is very important to gain experience from the Champions League. We have to play in these games because we don’t get that exposure that often when we come up against Scottish teams. It is very good for us to get these games and we hope we will win the league now and play again next season.
“You can see that what we are doing is working in some areas. We need to be more ruthless in front of goal, and also to defend our own goal. The football is there, but the final parts are not quite there yet.”