FOR any footballer born in Sweden over the past 25 years, there have been no shortage of role models to look up to, particularly for attackers.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is an obvious inspiration, as well as a certain Celtic legend by the name of Henrik Larsson.

Sead Haksabanovic - perhaps by deign of his Montenegrin heritage and the fact he represents that country at international level - has managed to avoid the equal parts inevitable and illogical comparisons to Larsson since making the move to Celtic, but that doesn’t mean the man the fans call the King of Kings didn’t act as an inspiration to the winger as he came through the youth ranks at Halmstad BK.

Those same fans along with Haksabanovic would certainly be pleased if the 23-year-old could even produce a little of the stardust Larsson sprinkled over Celtic Park during his time in Scotland, something he is keen to do after slowly settling into life at the club.

“I looked up to these guys a lot,” Haksabanovic said.

“Henrik’s son (Jordan) is my good friend. So I know a lot about what he has done here. I have seen clips of it.

“So, I am just going to do my best and see if I can achieve 10 per cent of what he did.”

Larsson Jnr, who Haksabanovic references, was of course linked with a move to Celtic over the summer, and not for the first time. But if there is pressure on any Swede to emulate Celtic’s magnificent seven, the scrutiny on his son Jordan would have been too much for him to shoulder according to Haksabanovic.

“I have heard that, but I think he would have to do too much if he came here,” he said. “There would be too much pressure.

“I didn’t [speak to Jordan before I came here] because I didn’t want anybody to know. But he messaged me when it was done and said: ‘We are happy for you, it’s a great club, they will take care of you, if you need anything you can ask me’.” 

As well as dreaming of emulating Swedish stars like Larsson, Haksabanovic is pinching himself that he is getting to play on the same stage as his other childhood heroes like Ronaldinho in the Champions League with Celtic.

He was handed a surprise first start for the club by manager Ange Postecoglou when they travelled to Warsaw to face Shakhtar Donetsk in the last matchday in the competition, though he was substituted at half-time after visibly tiring.

Now feeling fitter, he is desperate to show what he can do for the club in Europe’s premier competition.

“It’s a dream to play in the Champions League,” he said.

“When I was playing football as a kid I watched the Champions League and when I was running around playing with my friends I would be screaming about being in the Champions League, and now I’m going to play in it. Who was I pretending to be back then? Ronaldinho, maybe.

“It’s just amazing and my friends are really happy for me as well. It’s the biggest stage. It’s where everyone wants to get to.”

Haksabanovic has come through setbacks to get to where he is now, not least in negotiating his eventual exit from Rubin Kazan to join Celtic after refusing to return to Russia once the conflict in Ukraine had started.

His first taste of football in the UK didn't go smoothly either, and his frustration at failing to make the breakthrough at West Ham in the fledgling years of his career has made him doubly determined to make an impression this time around. 

“It was a big move but I didn’t go there thinking I would play every game, because I was still only 18 and coming from Sweden," he said. 

“After Slaven Bilic got sacked I didn’t get much game time. "I played every game of pre-season under the new coach but they were keen for me to go out on loan.

“It didn’t turn out so good for me at Malaga [either] as the manager there didn’t want me to play.

"[But] I love to play football, I love to make money for my family and to help them. If I had one leg on which to play football I would still do it.”

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku has said that the club’s refusal to sell him in the summer has only made him more determined to repay their faith in him ahead of the match against Celtic on Wednesday night.

Manchester United were linked with a move for the forward during the close season, and he is believed to be close to agreeing terms with Chelsea on a potential move at the end of the current campaign.

Far from downing tools after his initial dream of a transfer to England was scuppered though, the striker has resolved to score as many goals as he can before he does inevitably move on.

“It was the first time in my career that my club has told me I’m too important to turn myself in.” he said.

“That is an indescribably good feeling. This trust makes me stronger, I want to repay that.”