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Celtic’s Future Star: Karamoko Dembele


One is always loath to make predictions too prematurely on young talent, but early footage of Karamoko Dembele is simply incredible. He first came to wider prominence at the tender age of 13 when he made his debut for Celtic’s U-20 side in October 2016. He’s been under media scrutiny ever since and even featured in a high-profile Nike advertisement alongside Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo a few months ago; it’s a lot for any young man to take in and one hopes it doesn’t all go to his head.

There was the unfortunate instance of Islam Feruz recently, who Celtic raised – and even ensured he and his family were allowed to stay in the country and not face deportation back to Somalia – and took care of before he promptly left the club when the rich Chelsea made their interest in him known. Feruz, accordingly, has yet to make a first-team appearance for the club and, at 22, his career just hasn’t taken off, with the player struggling through several terrible loan moves away from Stamford Bridge.

Perhaps staying with Celtic would have allowed the youngster to mature in a more nurturing setting, perhaps he would have faded away regardless. Dembele would be wise, though, to consider his predecessor’s example and not be tempted by the wealth of the English Premier League too soon.


And based on the available footage so far, Dembele is a far superior talent to Feruz. His touch, his vision, his pure footballing ability completely belie his youth, and even Brendan Rodgers said last year that Dembele was technically good enough to occupy his first-team squad. Celtic have done well to not rush him through the age groups, for Dembele is still young and must mature physically, but it’s also true that he has held his own against older boys in games he’s featured in.

Given the excitement around him, a battle has also commenced for his international position, with both England and Scotland having a claim: eligible for either of those teams, as well as the Ivory Coast, Dembele has featured in games at U-16 level for Scotland and U-15 level for England, and still seems unsure where his future lies. Notably, he starred in a victory over England for Scotland in 2017, but Dembele still has a few years to make his definitive decision. He’s 15 now and Celtic’s youngster ever first-team player in their history was only a year older, Jack Aitchison in 2016, so the winger should be thinking about doing the same very soon.

What’s truly astounding is Dembele’s confidence and bravery on the ball, a mentality that will be vital if he’s to break through at such a young age. Celtic has required a good reputation in the 21st century for developing youth, with Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor, and James Forrest all breaking into the first-team in recent seasons and – as the current evidence shows what could be a once-in-a-generational player – there’s every reason that Dembele could be the next in line, even at 15.

Freelance writer currently based in New Zealand.