Prodigious Celtic teenager Karamoko Dembele has been urged to stay grounded and enjoy his football by a man who knows all too well the pitfalls of being an exciting young talent at Parkhead.
Islam Feruz was just 14 when he appeared for Celtic in a memorial match for Tommy Burns in 2009.
However, he was swayed by the riches of Premier League side Chelsea in September 2011 and his career stalled after moving to Stamford Bridge.
Loan spells at OFI Crete, Blackpool, Hibernian and now Excel Mouscron have followed for Feruz, who has failed thus far to live up to the early promise.
Dembele made headlines after making his debut for Celtic’s Under-20 side at the age of 13 against Hearts last week, and Feruz urged the youngster not to rush any decisions regarding his future.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said: “I’ve heard about young Dembele. I’ve been told he has a genuine chance to go all the way.
“It takes me back to the situation I was in seven or eight years ago.
“The main thing is to stay focused and concentrate on football. If he keeps doing what he has been doing then he will continue to improve.
“He has been recognised by the Celtic Under-20 team. That will have boosted him.
“If he keeps progressing at this speed then who knows what he will be ready to achieve at 16? I hope he stays with Celtic, plays for their first team and score lots of goals. Never forget that playing football makes you happy.
“If he does that, the next step of his career will be a natural progression. He will not need to chase anything or rush into anything.
“He just has to keep his head down, stay focused and not allow himself to be distracted. That’s the best advice I can give him.”
He added: “I remember it all just seemed to happen at once and hit me overnight. There was so much publicity. It was very hard to handle. My family and friends were also thrust into the spotlight.
“It’s hard to cope when you are so young. It’s easy to put your faith in other people and it becomes easy to lose focus on football.
“People will now want to get involved with him and, no doubt, promise plenty. People will try to sweet talk him.
“But you must trust in your family, that is so important. And stick to football. It’s easy to become distracted and lose sight of the necessary development required on and off the field.
“The people of Scotland, in every walk of life, must try to protect him. I wish him luck.”
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