Karamoko Dembele: the lowdown on Celtic's 13-year-old prodigy

A general image of Celtic Park in Glasgow

Karamoko Dembele made his debut for Celtic's U20 side aged just 13 - so who is he and what's all the fuss about?

Hoops fans already have a hero named Dembele - French forward Moussa has scored 12 goals for the Scottish champions since signing from Fulham in the summer - but prodigious namesake Karamoko could soon be thrilling the Parkhead hordes after being fast-tracked through the ranks.

The 13-year-old turned out for Celtic's development squad - seven years above his age group - in a 3-1 win over Hearts on Monday evening and, according to the club's official website, "the diminutive playmaker didn't look out of place".

What's caught the eye of youth chiefs and how soon might he make his way into Brendan Rodgers' first-team plans? Here's the lowdown on the Celtic prodigy already likened to Lionel Messi - including a closer look at him in action...

What's his background? 

Born in 2003 - the year Henrik Larsson was firing for Martin O'Neill's side - to parents from the Ivory Coast, Dembele currently juggles his schoolwork at St Ninians High School in Kirkintilloch with his burgeoning football career.

He starred for Celtic U15s against European opposition this summer, leaving defenders from Barcelona, Lyon, Deportivo La Coruna and West Brom in a spin at the St Kevin's Boys Academy Cup in Dublin. 

His performances there saw him named player of the tournament - and he also bagged that award in May when his U13 team-mates saw off the likes of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in Belgium to lift the prestigious Bassevelde International Cup.

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The last time Celtic won that competition - dubbed the Champions League for youngsters - a young Aiden McGeady was named top player...

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How about his style?

Footage of the precocious Dembele's eye for goal and penchant for a trick emerged back in August - and swiftly went viral.

Coaching website KeepItOnThe Deck, who filmed the below clip, describe Dembele as an "explosive winger with incredible power and pace for one so young" but he can spark attacks from the centre of midfield as well as cutting in from the wing.

"None of the Barca lads could get near him,' was their verdict after the Dublin tournament. "He was just too quick and skilful. Barcelona coaches took note of him." 

A string of online clips have loftily labelled Dembele the 'new Messi' and he's certainly got plenty of tricks in his locker. As well as direct running and quick feet as he uses his low centre of gravity to bamboozle opponents, he gives one defender the slip with a Cruyff turn at the touchline.

Check him out here...

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Check out Karamoko Dembele in action at the St Kevin's Boys Academy Cup 2016. Video courtesy of keepitonthedeck.com

What next?

Dembele's age has already proved no barrier to his development and in another potential omen, he replaced 16-year-old Jack Aitchison with eight minutes to go on Monday night - news of his arrival sparking a flurry of Twitter activity.

Aitchison became Celtic's youngest-ever debutant when he came on - scoring with his first touch - in the final game of last season's Scottish Premiership season but Dembele will now have that record in his sights.

Development squad manager Tommy McIntyre was missing several players through international call-ups for the fixture but the buzz around the club's youngest Dembele will have put him firmly on Rodgers' radar.

Celtic's talent-nurturers are certainly setting the bar high for their youngsters. "The Academy strikes to develop first-team regulars who are capable of performing in the Champions League for Celtic," reads their mission statement.

But for now, the club has vowed to make sure his progress continues at a "measured pace".

"Karamoko is still a young boy and has a lot of growing to do, both physically and mentally," head of youth, Chris McCart, told the club's website. "The coaches at our U13 and 14 levels have been fantastic in nurturing his potential but it is crucial that we do not push him too far, too soon.

"He has a lot of hard work ahead of him to make it to the top and we won't rush that, but we also know Karamoko, and the other talented young players we have here, is at the perfect place to continue his progress and we look forward to seeing what the future holds."

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