As Celtic brutally dismantled their Old Firm foes Rangers on Saturday afternoon, there was one Hoops player who particularly caught the eye for Ange Postecoglou’s side, with Matt O’Riley having once again stolen the limelight with another breathtaking midfield display.
For all the brilliance of Jota’s delicate dink and Liel Abada’s brutal brace, it was the former MK Dons starlet who appeared to be the man running the show in the centre of the park, with the midfielder only adding to his already growing reputation.
That one-sided affair with Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side saw the Denmark U21 international lay on two assists in what was a truly magnificent performance, already taking his total tally to five assists in just six league games so far this season.
Unperturbed by the often volatile nature of a Glasgow derby, the 21-year-old was his typically calm and composed self at Parkhead, with Glasgow Live’s Ben Banks writing that the youngster looked like he ‘was playing the game with a cigar and slippers on’, having been a ‘cut above’ the rest of the midfield.
Not only was it his stunning, defence-splitting pass for teammate Jota that caught attention, but also the manner in which the £2.07m-rated ace glided around the pitch, notably almost teeing up striker Giorgos Giakoumakis with a delightful curling delivery early in the first half.
In truth, such a display will have been unsurprising to many in Scotland, such has been his form since his £1.5m switch back in January – having registered four goals and seven assists in just 26 games in all competitions for the club.
Having more than filled the void left behind by Tom Rogic, the one-time Fulham youth product has quickly cemented himself as a leading figure in Postecoglou’s side, with it having been a truly meteoric rise of late for the highly-rated talent.
The only potential negative of such form, however, has been the deserved attention that the 6-foot-2 starlet is now attracting from rival suitors, with those at Celtic Park no doubt fearing that the playmaker’s stay at the club may well prove to be a brief one.
Reports late in the window had revealed that a host of Europe’s top clubs were keeping tabs on the London-born machine, with the player himself evening admitting that it was pleasing to see his name linked to such elite teams.
Manchester United are reportedly one of those who are scouting the “intelligent” asset at present – as dubbed by former boss Russell Martin – with the suggestion being that he could command a fee in the region of £20m were to depart.
And, while Postecoglou and co have managed to hang on to the emerging star for now, the former Yokohama boss will no doubt fear the worst as January comes around, with clubs likely to be circling once again should the player’s eye-catching displays continue in the coming months.
The club’s upcoming Champions League involvement could also be a platform for O’Riley to inadvertently put himself in the shop window, with strong outings against the likes of Real Madrid and RB Leipzig only set to see his reputation develop even further.
While there is some respite over the next few months with the winter window still firmly in the distance, Celtic may well have to prepare themselves for a departure once the market re-opens.