CELTIC wonderkid Karamoko Dembele has already been dubbed “the new Messi” after exploding on to the scene, aged just 13.
But for the Bhoys’ sake – and for Scotland’s – I hope the footsteps the youngster follows in belong to another wee superstar – Jimmy Johnstone.
“Jinky”, like Messi, was a world-class football player. He won leagues, cups, European honours and international caps.
But more than that, he did it all whilst playing for Celtic.
Times have changed since then, and football has changed too.
These days, Celtic can’t compete with Europe’s top clubs in terms of attracting top talent, so when a homegrown gem like Dembele comes along, everybody gets swept up in the excitement.
If the wee man continues to develop, it will only be a matter of time until bigger clubs swoop.
Let’s not kid ourselves on – the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City will have been aware of him even before he hit the headlines.
But there’s a cautionary tale, custom-made for the people looking after Dembele, in the shape of Islam Feruz.
Here was a player hyped as a kid at Celtic and was fast-tracked into the Scotland set-up – a player who then jumped at the first chance of a move away from Parkhead when Chelsea came calling.
What has he done since? Nothing. Or, at least, nothing on the pitch.
Feruz has been farmed out on loan four times by Chelsea – four times he has returned to Stamford Bridge having failed to make an impact.
Off the field, amidst accusations of a major attitude problem, he has found himself in bother with the courts for a driving offence.
For a kid who promised so much, the last five years have been a major disappointment.
I can’t help but wonder whether things might have panned out differently had he stuck it out at Celtic, who gave him his debut in a testimonial aged just 14.
Dembele has arguably started life at Celtic even more impressively than Feruz did. I just hope he stays a bit longer.
It’s a delicate situation for Brendan Rodgers and Celtic’s youth coaches.
But knowing Brendan as I do, I reckon he’s got the ability to handle it perfectly.
The Bhoys boss will have thought long and hard about whether to pitch his 13-year-old star in at Under-20 level.
In the end, he felt it was the right move – and Celtic fans should stand behind him on that.
Having come through the ranks at Celtic Boys Club myself, I know that 90% of kids who are part of the set-up at 13 will not make it to the first-team.
But sometimes a kid comes along who is a wee bit special – and Dembele fits the bill.
By testing him against older opponents, Celtic are doing right by him.
Scotland are doing the same by preparing him for the upcoming Victory Shield clashes.
I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that, in the end, both club and country get to enjoy the benefit of their hard work.
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