According to The Sun, Premier League side Southampton are “monitoring” Leo Fuhr Hjelde.
The Norwegian 17-year-old is impressing on loan at Ross County. Thrust into first-team action for a side attempting top-flight survival, Hjelde couldn’t have asked for a tougher secondment. A mobile, fleet-footed centre-back, he’s made 8 appearances for John Hughes’ side.
Impressing and improving with every performance, it’s no wonder clubs are “interested”. But, as ever, this is something we need to take with a pinch of salt. Clubs “monitor” players all the time; Celtic “monitored” Rivaldo at one stage [Sky Sports]. It’s what happens next that’s key.
In the post-Brexit world, Premier League clubs are going to be after our best talents. We’ve seen it from both sides; our signing of Liam Shaw is a notable example. More often though, we’ve been haggled with or rebuffed. Look at our protracted pursuit of Alfie Doughty; that’s the steely resolve Celtic need here.
Granted, without the bit where we sell him to Stoke City.
The larger point, here, is that Celtic youngster need to know they’re going to get opportunities. Or, at the very least, the club will facilitate first-team football for them in some way. Leo Fuhr Hjelde has had that with Ross County, and he’s earning rave reviews.
Ross County boss Jon Hughes told the Press and Journal back in March:
“He won’t be far away from Celtic’s first-team when he goes back.
“This will do him the world of good. Training and playing with men, getting battered about and coming back for more. He’s got more in the locker. He’s got a great left foot.”
Stephen Welsh example shows Leo Fuhr Hjelde has got a future worth exploring at Celtic
Leo Fuhr Hjelde has a contract with Celtic until 2022. If this interest in him from Ralph Hassenhüttl’s side is concrete, then Hjelde has every right to ask for better terms from the Bhoys when it comes to an extension.
He’s quite entitled to do so. At 17, he’s a real prospect, with Ajer-like potential. Not that Ajer is the finished article either, of course. But both players are at different stages of developing into excellent players. It might seem like sacrilege, and I hear you, I would also play for Celtic for free.
However, if Hjelde is to be convinced of his long-term future at Celtic, the Bhoys may have to consider a bigger number in his pay packet long-term. If the club start making a real statement about keeping their Academy graduates and being clear about their progression, then the club can obviously benefit long-term.
You know about the raft of players who have left us for “better” things, but if not: Josh Adam, Manchester City. Liam Morrison, Bayern Munich. Liam Hughes, Liverpool. Vincent Angelini is on the verge of leaving. We are facing an exodus of considerable proportions.
Some have stayed, and some have prospered. Stephen Welsh has been vaulted into first-team action during an utter crisis of a season. He’s still a little raw, at 21, but he’s evidence of what can happen with patience. That is to say, if Hjelde wants to play at Celtic, he’ll undoubtedly get to.
So, do the right thing, Celtic. Leo Fuhr Hjelde is improving right before our eyes at Ross County. If Southampton are interested, make a statement.