Leeds United move for Celtic teenager dubbed 'the next Virgil van Dijk'

Leeds United have completed the signing of Celtic’s Norwegian defender Leo Hjelde, who spent last season on loan at Ross County.

Leo Hjelde in action for Celtic during a friendly match between Celtic and West Ham United at Celtic Park on July 24, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Leo Hjelde in action for Celtic during a friendly match between Celtic and West Ham United at Celtic Park on July 24, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The promising centre-back turned 18 on Thursday and marked his milestone birthday with a four-year deal at Elland Road.

First team appearances have been scarce for the under-18 international since moving to Scotland from Rosenborg in 2019, but he played 11 times in the Highlands under another former Celtic centre-back, John Hughes, last season.

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The Staggies manager was so impressed by the defender he predicted he had the talent to develop into a player like Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk who also played at Celtic before a move to the English Premier League.

"The quality he has shown, the physical challenge, playing real men's football and standing up to it - it has been a wonderful experience for Leo,” he told the BBC.

However despite promising showings in pre-season friendlies under new boss Ange Postecoglou, Hjelde could not make the first-team breakthrough.

Hjelde's move has been rumoured for some time, even before his move north, and while a departure from Celtic had been expected this week with speculation intensifying at the club, it had been thought one of the Norwegian’s team-mates would be on the move before the end of the transfer window.

Bordeaux and Rubin Kazan are the latest clubs to be linked with striker Odsonne Edouard, who has also attracted interest from Brighton, Southampton and Crystal Palace recently. The Saints have also been frequently linked with Ryan Christie with the midfielder’s contract up in January.

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