Ross County manager John Hughes took quite a gamble when he lured Celtic 17-year-old Leo Hjelde to Dingwall on loan in January. The Norwegian had never played a senior match before, but he has since proven to be a solid acquisition – playing nine times for Ross County and even scoring his first senior goal against Kilmarnock. Now, Hughes has claimed Ross County were not the only side keen in January – with Leeds also interested.
Hjelde, 17, joined Celtic in the summer of 2019 from Norwegian side Rosenborg – a club that the Hoops have faced on a regular basis in European competition in recent years. Hjelde has since appeared for the club’s youth teams and even the reserve side – but the taste of first-team football tempted him and he was sent on loan to Ross County in January.
Since then, he has played nine times and scored a goal and his form has been impressive. Celtic clearly have a proper talent on their hands, but it appears that clubs from the Premier League are already starting to take a look. Leeds rivalled Ross County in January, so much so that Celtic chose to extend his contract before he moved on loan to Hughes’ side.
This all comes from Hughes, who told BBC Sport that he believes he has the next Virgil van Dijk on his hands. Whether Leeds remain interested and could go back in the summer is something only the future will tell, but it is interesting to see that the club remain keen on bringing in younger talent – especially with promotion to Premier League 2’s top tier so close.
Hughes 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.”