This article is part of Football FanCast’s In The Pipeline series, which takes a look at some of the most promising young talent either linked with clubs or emerging from their academies…
Celtic manager Neil Lennon has confirmed that youngster Karamoko Dembele is part of his first-team plans next season, as reported by The Scottish Sun.
Dembele made his debut for the club on the final day of the Scottish Premiership last season, coming off the bench against Hearts at Celtic Park.
The 16-year-old looked sharp during his cameo, with his deft first touch and dribbling ability apparent as well as his desire to create chances and score goals.
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Lennon now believes that he can no longer be held back by training with the reserve and youth squads at the club.
As quoted by The Scottish Sun, the Hoops boss said:
“Karamoko is certainly part of the first-team squad just now. He is in the mix and he will be in Austria.
“We have to be very mindful of his age and his development. But sometimes you don’t want to curtail talent either.
“Wayne Rooney was one who made his debut at 16 too. I’m not saying Karamoko is going to be as good as him. They are different types. But he’s a very talented player and one that I think should be mixing with the first team now.
“He is ready for that, to be training with the first team and dipping in and out. That’s all part of his development and we have seen it with others in the past.”
Dembele has long been hyped as the next big talent at Celtic Park, hitting the headlines in 2016 when he made his debut for the club’s U20s side at the age of just 13.
Since then fans have followed his progress closely and last season, as he turned 16 and became eligible for senior action in the Scottish Premiership, Celtic were uploading highlights of reserve matches to their official YouTube channel that attracted hundreds of thousands of views.
The teenager signed his first professional contract back in December and is contracted with the club until 2021, meaning he has plenty of time to make a consistent first-team breakthrough.
Going by Lennon’s words though, the starlet is well placed to do so sooner rather than later and will have a big opportunity to impress during pre-season friendlies.