No Karamoko Dembele? New Celtic contracts highlight big issue for Bhoys

By Euan Davidson

January 6, 2021

Celtic announced two exciting contract extensions for academy players today, but the fact Karamoko Dembele wasn’t amongst them remains a concern.

It was a nice bit of news that supporters have needed, with many long-term concerns about the club. From recruitment to our academy, the club have under-performed in 20-21.

The extensions followed a flurry of Celtic Colts news, with Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson reportedly being allowed to draft Celtic and Rangers Colt proposals (Daily Mail). If approved, we could see youth teams from both clubs playing within the SPFL.

Still, it’s just not the news Celtic supporters were truly after. They want certainty on Dembélé, and they want it now.

The youngster’s contract runs out in the summer. Fans are desperate for the club to tie up a longer-term deal for the England youth international.

Dembélé set Celtic hearts racing with his debut in 2019 (Glasgow Evening Times). However, his first-team opportunities have stalled under Neil Lennon.

The diminutive winger has only amassed four first-team minutes with the Bhoys in 20-21 (Transfermarkt). Even with James Forrest missing, a rotating cast of unnatural right-wingers have played ahead of Dembélé.

Celtic youngster Karamoko Dembele / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Karamoko Dembélé should do more, but Celtic are taking a gamble

Given the excitement around Dembélé, you’d be forgiven for wondering why Celtic are dragging their heels on a new contract for the youngster.

There’s been pressure on the winger for years now, having made appearances for the club’s U20s development squads at the age of 13 (The Guardian). In the YouTube age, his highlight reels have amassed hundreds of thousands of views.

Small in stature but with excellent technical ability, it seems that training is the main issue. It’s been said his application in sessions and physical development have been areas of concern for Celtic’s youth coaches (The Athletic).

With a lack of organised football at youth level, there are only limited opportunities to really test Dembélé and his colleagues. Yet if the first-team is too far a jump, training is very much the proving ground.

Lennon told the Glasgow Evening Times in December:

“He is 17, so again he had a lot of attention when he was younger but he is just making steady progress with the development side.

“It is difficult for the kids because there is no real games programme for them this year and we have had to try and find games for them sporadically.

“We just have to be careful with him and not throw him in too early. He may even develop with him physically. We just have to be patient, we know he is a quality player but physically he still has a bit of development to do to be part of the first team squad.”

With his undoubted potential, it seems to make more sense to tie his development with the club long-term. The club surely know they have an exciting, marketable talent in their ranks with Karamoko.

His contract runs out in the summer of 2021 (Celtic FC). That fact alone has Celtic fans wondering if they’re going to miss out on a potential star.