NORWEGIAN Under-17 defender Leo Hjelde will be recalled by Celtic in the summer following his five-month loan period at Ross County.
The classy centre-half or left-back is already earning rave notices from Dingwall boss John Hughes who thinks so much of the kid he has tipped him to be “the next Virgil van Dijk”.
Hjelde, who joined the Hoops from BK Copenhagen Youths in July 2019, has played only nine times for the Highland outfit, but ex-Parkhead player Hughes has seen enough to lavish praise on the teenager.
The County gaffer, speaking to the BBC, said: “Leo is going to be the next Van Dijk – trust me on that.
“The quality he has shown, the physical challenge, playing real men’s football and standing up to it, it’s been a wonderful experience for Leo.
“Before he came, Leeds United were after him. I think he had to sign an extension to his contract for the loan to go through.”
Hjelde, in fact, has terms that keep him at the Glasgow club until June 2022 and the Hoops hierarchy are keen to get him to sign an extension.
Hughes acknowledged the left-sided operator has made some mistakes and “has got a lot to learn”, but had been “absolutely fantastic” considering he was a 17-year-old in a foreign country during a pandemic.
Celtic have been nursing the promising youngster along much in the manner they treated his compatriot Kristoffer Ajer when he first joined the club as a teenager from FK Start in June 2016 for a fee of £650,000 after agreeing the switch the previous January.
The 22-year-old Norwegian international has been a key player in the past couple of seasons after a loan campaign at Kilmarnock in season 2016/17 to help him settle into the rigours of the Scottish game.
Hjelde may also be allowed out on another temporary transfer, but that is likely to depend on his contract situation.