BY HIS OWN admission, Rocco Vata never intended to hang around Celtic.

Last week, the 19-year-old winger knocked back a contract extension to quit the club as a free agent, was spirited off to Watford on a four-year deal and the Hoops will receive something in the region of £240,000 in compensation.

Vata took to Instagram to reveal: “My 12 years at Celtic comes to an end earlier than expected.”

Clearly, then, the Republic of Ireland international, son of ex-Parkhead utility performer Rudi Vata, had anticipated leaving the champions  at some stage in his career.

That’s a startling lack of commitment from a youngster who had been nurtured by the academy staff at Celtic since he was seven years old.

LAST-MINUTE INSTRUCTIONS…Brendan Rodgers has a word with Rocco Vata before sending the winger on as a substitute in the 1-1 draw with Aberdeen at Pittodrie last season.

Thankfully, for every Rocco Vata there is a Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Anthony Ralston or Stephen Welsh, dedicated kids who are in it for the long haul.

Maybe I am old fashioned and understand things such as loyalty and trust. Possibly, I am being over-critical of a young player who is eager to go his own way to display his attributes elsewhere.

I confess I haven’t seen enough of Vata to form an opinion on his ability. He has made fleeting substitute appearances over the past couple of years, but I can’t recall him providing anything extraordinary.
In fact, Rocco reminds me a lot of Karamoko Dembele, the one-time wonder Bhoy who was going to take the football world by storm. Alas, the London-born, Glasgow-raised wide player never lived up to the hype that surrounded him from the day he came on as a substitute at the age of 13 for the Celtic Under-20s against Hearts at Cappielow in 2016.
In the midst of the tumultuous hoo-ha that followed the diminutive would-be superstar, I was informed by someone “in the know” that he was being tracked by Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.
ON THE BALL…Karamoko Dembele in one of his ten Celtic appearances.
That’s the same Karamoko Dembele who joined the unexceptional Stade Brest in July 2022 at the completion of his Hoops contract and boasted to his new expectant followers: “I’m very explosive, I like to have fun and give it to the fans and I like to score and win.”
The same Karamoko Dembele who didn’t claim a solitary strike in 18 appearances for the French club.
The same Karamoko Dembele who did not impress Brendan Rodgers, Neil Lennon or Ange Postecoglou to a sufficient level for one of them to give him a starting place in their line-up. The player’s ten appearances for Celtic all came off the bench.
The same Karamoko Dembele who played the entirety of last season on loan at third-tier Blackpool.
At 21, the forward, undoubtedly the possessor of mesmerising skills, still has time on his side to make an impact. However, like many before him, he has discovered there is no short cut to reaching stratospheric highs in this game.
The road to stardom and fame may well be paved with gold.
But there is also a fair scattering of banana skins en route to an ambitious youngster’s intended destination.
Rocco Vata has made the decision to walk away from Celtic and he views the way forward via second-tier Watford. Only time will tell if he has taken the right path.
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