If a report from Football Scotland is believed to be accurate, Celtic are keeping close tabs on Cardiff City teenager Japhet Matondo. But they are not alone in the hunt, with Leeds United as well as city rivals Rangers in the race for his signature.
The 16-year-old winger has not turned professional yet, and the clubs, therefore, are circling like vultures to secure his services for a minuscule development fee. The Bluebirds will receive around £130k as cross-border compensation if the youngster decides to ply his trade at Parkhead this summer.
Celtic, meanwhile, failed to keep hold of their academy prodigy Ben Doak who left for Liverpool. Matondo is being viewed as the replacement for the young Scot down the wide, and it remains to be seen whether he replicates a similar impact for the U23s from the next season onwards.
The Wales U17 international has already featured for the Cardiff U23s. According to Wales Online, the club are preparing a contract for their prized asset, and the player, too, has been respectful towards his boyhood side by not making a call on his future yet. He would rather wait for Cardiff’s offer before exploring what lies ahead.
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The Hoops have taken a similar route of recruitment time and again in the recent past. They roped in Moussa Dembele from Fulham on a Bosman, as well as Liam Shaw and Osaze Urhoghide, who joined them last summer upon the expiration of their Sheffield Wednesday contracts.
Matondo would initially join Celtic B. However, an impressive run of form might see him earning his senior debut soon. The same has happened for Doak earlier this term, and the Wales prospect might follow this route to stake a claim in Ange Postecoglou’s long-term plans.
Celtic lost their title in 2020-21 to Rangers but have reclaimed the coveted crown after an incredible turnaround under their Aussie boss. Postecoglou tied down an array of new names over the past couple of windows who delivered persistently by attuning to the demands and aggression of the Scottish game. He preferred the young guns like Filipe Jota and Liel Abada ahead of veteran James Forrest in the wide attacking roles, and his philosophy of promoting the youth over established names might attract Matondo in order to earn a faster pathway to the first-team picture.