Celtic's new midfielder moved north from MK Dons last week with glowing references, and now Russell Martin has detailed the sacrifices he made in order to make it as a professional – even knocking back opportunities with bigger name clubs including Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund to simply play games.
O’Riley was at Fulham when he began to get itchy feet over a lack of playing time at Craven Cottage.
A spell training with MK Dons led to a permanent move in January 2021 and a year later the midfielder made his £1.5m move to Celtic - with a portion of the fee also due to the London club.
Former Rangers and Scotland centre back Martin, now manager of Swansea City, was impressed as soon as he saw him – but learned more about the background and the lengths the youngster was willing to go to, to make it.
"Back in 2020 I spoke to an agent who said he had this boy, Matt O’Riley, and he was refusing a new contract at Fulham," he said.
“He got offered a very good contract, but was desperate to play. He didn’t want to be a squad player and was backing his ability to play first-team football.
“He was in talks with the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Southampton, Burnley, Chelsea but nobody could agree compensation with Fulham.
“He came to train with us [MK Dons] and right away it was like, ‘Wow, he’s some player’ – good technically, two-footed, brilliant finisher and just a really intelligent footballer,” Martin told The Sun.
“We really enjoyed having him and he was really enjoying it too. He said the way we played football suited him and he’d love to explore trying to sign.
“It took us three months to get something in place with Fulham.
“He took a wage that was probably about a fifth of what he was offered at Fulham just to play first-team football, because he knew how much it suited him.”
Martin added: “Matty sees the bigger picture.
"I’m convinced he’ll go on to play at the very top, but a huge part of his journey now is playing at a club as big as Celtic.”