Neil Lennon has solved the Karamoko Dembele absence mystery and revealed what he must do in order to break into the Celtic team.
For years, Karamoko Dembele has been one of the most highly-rated youngsters in the Celtic youth ranks. But that hype surrounding his name has not translated to first-team opportunities yet.
The 17-year-old has played just 4 minutes of football this season. But then, that is not a lot less than the total 23 minutes that he was afforded through the course of last season. And it is clear that he is not part of Neil Lennon’s first-team plans, in the immediate future at least.
The Celtic manager has been known to stick with the tried-and-tested veteran players instead of giving youngsters a lot of opportunities. And that is a huge reason why the youth academy has failed to produce any first-team regulars in the recent past despite there being ample talent.
Lennon has revealed though what Dembele must do in order to make it into his first-team plans. As reported by the Glasgow Times, the manager said:
“Karamoko is 17 and he had a lot of attention when he was younger, but he is just making steady progress with the development side.
“It is difficult for the kids because there is no real games programme for them this year and we have had to try and find games for them sporadically.
“We just have to be careful with him and not throw him in too early.
“We have to be patient, we know he is a quality player, but, physically, he still has a bit of development to do to be part of the first-team squad.”
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That is something that has been mentioned a number of times regarding the 17-year-old. Although there has never been any doubt that he is supremely talented, he is not a physical specimen by any stretch of the imagination. And it would be a massive risk to throw him into the deep waters of Scottish football before making sure that his body is ready to cope with the rigours that come with the professional level.
The Hoops must be careful in that aspect though. Dembele’s contract with the club runs out in the summer of 2022. If he is not provided with opportunities soon then it would not be a surprise if he decides to pursue his career elsewhere. And with his reputation, he will not have a hard time finding another club.
The best case scenario for Celtic would be to slowly integrate him into the first-team by giving him late minutes in games that have been already won. Unfortunately, there have not been a lot of those this season.