Few 13-year-olds know what they want to do in life during their early teens. Even fewer have the ability to begin stepping into that role with the eyes of the world on them.
13-year-old Ivorian starlet Karamoko Dembele is no ordinary teenager. The talented youngster is already turning heads in Europe, and attracting interest from clubs throughout the continent after making his debut for the Celtic Under-20 team in a recent match.
Playmaker Dembele came on for the final nine minutes of the development squad’s 3-1 win over Hearts at Cappielow on October 3, raising eyebrows due to his age but not looking out of place on the pitch. He also trained with the first team earlier in the year in order to be introduced to new coach Brendan Rodgers.
The wonder-kid is being monitored by top clubs throughout Europe including Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, while Manchester City have admitted to tracking Dembele very closely in the hopes of securing his move from the Hoops.
Born in London to Ivorian parents in 2003, the youngster was brought into the Celtic youth system at six years old. His skill and attacking vision was identified, which has led to him being fast-tracked through the club ranks all the way to U20 level. Such progression has also resulted in a call up by Scotland’s schoolboys team taking part in the Under-16s Victory Shield.
Playing with and against footballers seven years older than him proved just another milestone in the serial Player-of-the-Tournament winner’s already impressive youth career.
His preferred positions are as a centre-forward or attacking midfielder, but his versatility ensures that he is not out of place on the wing. He is fast and skilfull, with an eye for goal and a work rate that has earned him praise. Africa can be proud of the youngster due to his parents, but Scotland, Celtic in particular have played a key role in helping to hone his talent.
The fact that he was introduced to Rodgers shows the importance that the Scottish club have placed in the youngster’s promise and potential to become a first team player in future years. The spotlight at only 13 must be overwhelming, but the Ivorian teenager seems to be taking it in his stride.
At such a young age the pressure on the youngster is growing after his recent forays into the U20 Celtic side, as well as media and scouts calling him the ‘African Messi’ due to similarities between the two in terms of their impact in Europe as kids, as well as both being left-footed.
But former Celtic starlet Islam Feruz has advised Dembele to stay at Parkhead and not be swayed by money and interest from other European clubs. The Somalian-born striker regrets rejecting a contract with his Scottish club in favour of a lucrative Chelsea deal in 2011, after having spent six years with the Celtic juniors.
He admits that he wishes he could have changed the path of his career by remaining with Celtic. Feruz is yet to make a first team debut for the Blues, and is currently on loan at Belgian side Excel Mouscron. Dembele would be wise to heed the words of his predecessor, who believes that he should concentrate on football and improving his game.
Dembele is talented, there is no doubt, but he would do well to remain with Celtic youth team for some time to come, to ensure that his feet remain firmly rooted and to continue his growth as a footballer until he one day delivers on the massive potential that he so clearly has.