Celtic must take action on Leo Hjelde contract to avoid another frustrating exit
Celtic fans who tuned into the friendly against Sheffield Wednesday may have been pleasantly surprised with young centre-back Leo Hjelde.
Hjelde, who was signed by the club from Rosenborg in 2019, is back for pre-season with Ange Postecoglou after a productive second half of the season at Ross County last year.
At 17, he managed 12 senior appearances for John Hughes’ side, helping them beat the drop [Transfermarkt]. After comparisons to Virgil van Dijk, Hjelde played the final half hour of our pre-season game against Wednesday yesterday.
As the Owls looked to crank up the pressure in the closing stages, Hjelde was essential in keeping Celtic’s lead in tact. He made two brilliant blocks in the first 15 minutes to avoid Scott Bain from having to make a save.
Hjelde’s positioning was spot on and you could see he was making sure not to be too rash in the challenge. In addition to that, a surprising level of composure and quality on the ball. Like compariot Kris Ajer, you could tell he had no issue playing out from the back.
Only one problem for Celtic; Leo Hjelde is into his final year
`But there’s a big issue with regards to the long-term relationship between Hjelde and Celtic – he’s out of contract next summer.
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Indeed, Hjelde’s deal is up at the end of the 2021/22 season. That means that clubs can talk to the centre-back for nothing in January. A pre-contract could then be signed, leaving the Hoops ruing the fact we didn’t sort things out sooner.
And the player will likely have plenty of interest too. Forgetting the van Dijk comparisons, he’s been strongly linked with a move to EPL side Leeds United [YEP].
Celtic have had a host of youngsters leave the club over the last two years. If it’s something Postecoglou is going to be taking seriously, he’ll need to reinforce the importance of tying Hjelde down.
The last thing we want is to be reading about his EPL debut in two years and look at him as one that got away. This is still in Celtic’s hands, and with a manager who is constantly pushing youth development, a player of the Norwegian’s ability and potential will excite him.
But it’s time to get round the table and ensure we don’t leave ourselves open to a sucker punch.