Jeremie Frimpong aiming to follow in Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk’s footsteps at Celtic and in Netherlands national team
Jeremie Frimpong admits he can hardly speak a word of Dutch but hopes his football will do the talking as he looks to follow in Virgil van Dijk’s footsteps at Celtic.
The 18-year-old right-back has made a more-than-eloquent statement on the pitch since joining the Scottish champions from Manchester City on transfer-deadline day this season.
Frimpong shone on his debut, a 5-0 Betfred Cup rout of Partick Thistle, and was outstanding again when he made his first Premiership appearance in the 6-0 drubbing of Ross County on Saturday.
The Dutch youth international was named man of the match on both occasions, setting a standard he insists he is capable of maintaining for Neil Lennon’s side as the campaign progresses.
Amsterdam-born Frimpong is also eligible to play for Ghana, through his mother, and England, where his family moved when he was just seven, two years before he was picked up by Manchester City’s youth academy.
For the moment, the Netherlands remain his first choice, despite his struggles with the language. He is convinced his move to Celtic will give him the opportunity to go all the way to the top at both club and international level, just as defender van Dijk has done on the back of his spell in Glasgow.
“I’d 100 percent like to do what Virgil has done,” said Frimpong, capped three times at under-19 level by the Dutch so far.
“There is a pathway at Celtic, you get chances here to do that. The Dutch national team play a lot of young players, like Matthijs de Ligt, who are really good. They are building another great team and it would be exciting to be a part of that.
“I’m still working on my Dutch, I know how to speak it a little. If I do play for the national team, I’ll try and learn it properly.
“I was born in Amsterdam, my parents are Dutch and Ghanaian. There is interest in me from Ghana but right now I want to play for Holland. I won’t write off Ghana and I could play for England as well.
“The Dutch language isn’t the easiest to learn. The way they speak is fast, so you’ve just got to listen to what they are saying and look at their lips carefully!
“My sister speaks it fluently. She’s been teaching me little bits but it’s hard. It was English that was spoken in the house when I was growing up. That and the Ghana language which is called Twi.
“My mum would normally speak that to me but my brothers and sisters all speak English. The only Dutch we would use would be hello and goodbye!”
Having caught the eye of Lennon while playing for Manchester City in a development team fixture against Celtic, Frimpong had little hesitation in accepting the move to Glasgow and signing a four-year contract.
“I had been at City all my football life and I had the ability to play there,” he said. “But I knew in my head that it was about the coach, Pep Guardiola, trusting me to play. And I knew I wasn’t going to get that. So I needed to change something.
“When he bought another right-back this summer, Joao Cancelo, that topped it off because he is a young guy as well.
“You train with the first team every week and then you go back down with the under-23s. There wasn’t really a pathway for me at Man City.
“So it wasn’t really that hard a decision. Obviously I would have loved to play for City, but I knew one day I would leave. This is just the beginning for me. Maybe I could go back there one day but right now I am staying here.
“What a way it has been for me to start, to win 5-0 and 6-0 in my first two games for Celtic. I’m not fazed by being here. If you want to be a footballer, you have to take opportunities like this. You’ve got to come here with confidence. Obviously be humble, but play how you can play.
“The reception from the fans has been really nice, they are amazing. To see my name on the board at the end of the games as Man of the Match was everything I could ask for.
“My target now is to get my place in the squad, play consistently and win the league with the team.
“The manager has just told me to keep training as I do. If I do that he says I’ll get my chances. I need to be patient. I came here thinking ‘whatever happens, happens’. I knew I’d have to be patient.
‘If I play, I play. If I don’t, I wait. I’ve just been taking it like that. I’ll just need to wait and see what the manager says and go from there. I know that if I keep doing well in training there will be chances.
“It’s not hard to be patient. I know that I have a long journey ahead of me. It’s good to be playing now but there are going to be loads more chances in the future. So it’s nothing to worry about.”