Celtic’s teenage sensation Karamoko Dembele could make his international bow as early as this month in an under-16 tournament between by Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.
The 13-year-old Dembele is understood to have already indicated a desire to play for Scotland. The teenager was born in London to parents from Ivory Coast and moved to Scotland before his first birthday.
Having been educated at primary and secondary level in Scotland for five years, he is eligible to play for his adopted country.
Dembele has been the subject of headlines around the world since making his debut as a substitute for Celtic under-20s against Hearts at Cappielow on Monday night.
Chris McCart, the Celtic head of youth, yesterday promised to carefully monitor the player’s progress. His own son Jamie played alongside Dembele on Monday night in the 3-1 win over Hearts.
“We were all delighted to see Karamoko make his debut for the development squad last night against Hearts,” said McCart.
“The fact that he was playing against other players seven years his senior gives an indication of the quality this young boy possesses and it was also fitting that he came on for Jack Aitchison, the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer.
“What we need to remember, though, is that Karamoko is just 13 years old. He was given a chance to play last night on merit, but it is very important that we continue their development at a measured pace.”
After being asked about Dembele yesterday, Mark McGhee, the Scotland assistant manager, admitted there has been a lot of talk about the player among Scotland youth coaches.
“I’ve not seen him, but I’ve heard our youth people talking about him,” he said. “He’s supposed to be outstanding, fantastic.”
McGhee could see nothing amiss with letting a player perform in an age group seven years older than what Dembele is now.
“I gave Robbie Keane his debut at 16, Emile Heskey his debut at 16,” he noted. “If they’re good enough, it doesn’t matter, they’re old enough. The quicker everybody brings these young players through the better for everyone.”
Dembele is already very much on the SFA’s radar and could be called up for the Victory Shield tournament, traditionally contested by all the “home” nations but now minus England since their withdrawal last year. Although an under-16 tournament, players who play are most often around the 15-year-old mark.
Islam Feruz, whose situation mirrored that of Demebele, made his international debut for the Scotland under-17s when still only 14 years old. Like Dembele, he was a Celtic player at the time.
The SFA are alert to Dembele’s talents - and have been for some time.
“Obviously he has shone for his club to the extent that he has now played for their development squad,” said a source. “But the youth department here were already aware of him and are in regular contact with his youth coaches at Celtic.
“Any player that shows such talent is obviously of interest and we will continue tracking his already very impressive development.”