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Amido Balde ‘not here to replace Gary Hooper’

New Celtic signing Amido Balde outside Parkhead. Picture: SNS

New Celtic signing Amido Balde outside Parkhead. Picture: SNS

  • by ANDY NEWPORT
 

Portuguese striker Amido Balde checked into Celtic after penning a four-year deal then declared he hopes to emulate compatriot Jorge Cadete and become a Parkhead hero.

The 22-year-old Vitoria Guimaraes forward is moving to Celtic Park in a reported £2million deal.

The 6ft 4in player started his career at Sporting Lisbon, the same club former Portugal forward Cadete left to join Tommy Burns’ team back in 1996.

One of the so-called “Three Amigos” alongside Pierre van Hooijdonk and Paolo Di Canio, Cadete earned iconic status with the Celtic support as he struck 38 goals in just 48 games for the Glasgow giants.

Now Portugal under-20 international Balde hopes to achieve similar success in Scotland.

He said: “I know Jorge Cadete from Sporting Lisbon because I played at the same club growing up.

“He was a very big striker in Portugal and a good one too. I would like to follow him and become a hero here and do even better if possible.”

Balde arrived in Glasgow on Monday but only signed his contract last night and attended a swiftly-convened press conference after four days of protracted negotiations.

He is manager Neil Lennon’s first summer signing but insisted he was hoping to partner – and not replace – Gary Hooper after Celtic rejected a £4million bid from Barclays Premier League new boys Hull City this week.

“I am here because I am 22 years old to learn from Gary, to follow him and take his example,” he said. “We don’t have the same similarities but he is a good striker. My style is more like Emmanuel Adebayor.

“The Celtic fans can expect to see me scoring goals and setting up a few as well.”

Balde failed to break into the first team at Sporting Lisbon and was despatched on loan to lower-league outfits in Portugal and Spain before spending the 2011-12 season with Cercle Brugge in Belgium.

He was released by his Lisbon employers last summer but went on to enjoy the most fruitful spell of his career last term as he struck nine times in 27 games for Vitoria.

Now with the prospect of Champions League football on the horizon, Balde insists his move to Celtic has been won with hard graft. “I’m a fighter, and I believe in myself,” said the player who will wear the number 17 shirt next season. “I have worked hard to achieve this and I deserve it. That is why I am wearing the Celtic shirt.

“I want to face this challenge, I want to give my best day by day to achieve big things at this club.

“It’s easy to be motivated here because Celtic is a very big club with very good players. Because of that it is fantastic to be here. I have seen a lot of matches with Celtic and their players. I want to feel the same way my team-mates felt when they beat Barcelona. I want that feeling they got when they played in the Champions League.

“I felt proud watching that game with Celtic winning against such a big side like Barcelona. It means that Celtic are a very good club and their supporters are too.

“Celtic has won so many trophies and are one of the biggest clubs in Europe. We’re going to play in the Champions League and that’s why I am here.”

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