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Celtic wonderkid Dembele told he 'might be the best of all' by Hoops legend Hartson

17:47 GMT+4 21/05/2019
Karamoko Dembele Celtic 2018-19
The former Hoops striker is among those excited by the 16-year-old's potential and hopes the youngster will not buckle under the weight of expectation

Karamoko Dembele has the potential to “be the best of all”, claims former Celtic striker John Hartson, with the 16-year-old making quite the impact at Parkhead.

The exciting prospect first burst onto the scene at the age of 13 when gracing the Hoops’ U20 side and has now been handed a senior breakthrough by the Scottish champions.

He made an eye-catching debut off the bench in a 2-1 victory over Hearts on Sunday and is being tipped to reach the very top.

Hartson has told the Evening Times of the youngster shouldering plenty of expectation: “It must have been four years ago when I first heard the name Karamoko Dembele.

“The word from Celtic back then was that a 12-year-old boy in the academy was one of the best they had ever seen. He was smaller than all of his team-mates but had pace, tricks and a touch. I was intrigued.

“Celtic as a club did their best to keep a lid on him. Too often, young players get ridiculously hyped up which puts unnecessary pressure on them. However, it proved impossible for the academy staff to hide away such a talent.

“He played for the development team at 13, a story that went around the world. He scored goals for Scotland at youth level. He was given a professional contract at 15. These are not things which happen all the time.

“And after making his Celtic debut on Sunday at, gulp, 16 years and three months, everyone can see why so many have been excited by Dembele from the first moment the scouts clapped eyes on him.”

Hoops legend Hartson added: “Now, he is 16. We can’t get too excited, says a man with a column about him, because he’s really only starting out.

“But I can see him playing more first-team games next season. Lenny [Neil Lennon] didn’t put him on as a gimmick. He deserved to be there.

“Dembele showed great maturity in his first 45 minutes of senior football. His team-mates were keen to get him on the ball because they know how good he is.

“I watched him playing for the Under-18s at Morton a few weeks ago and he was almost kicked off the park.

“They doubled up on him because the Morton players knew that allowing him a run at them was not the best plan of action.

“The Celtic academy is producing some good players, that’s great to see, with Dembele, [Michael] Johnston, following Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor and James Forrest.

“This lad might be the best of all. We shall see. But he has one hell of a chance.”