Ex-Celtic manager Neil Lennon has admitted that he was looking to bring former Dundee United playmaker Ryan Gauld to Parkhead last season, following the youngster’s dazzling top-flight performances.
After making his full league debut in 2012, aged just 16, Gauld experienced a breakout campaign in 2013-14, scoring six goals in 31 league games to help United to a fourth-place finish, earning widespread plaudits in the process, and even reported interest from Manchester United.
Lennon himself was ultimately unable to sign the 18-year-old, having left his post with Scottish champions after sealing his third-consecutive title, with the under-21 international later sealing a £3 million switch to Sporting Lisbon this summer.
However, he did not hold back in expressing his enthusiasm for the teenager dubbed "Mini Messi", believing his move to Portugal to be a great representation of Scottish football’s development.
‘Absolutely, we looked at him. We just thought it might be a little bit early for him to come and play in the first-team for us, but there’s no question he was talented enough,’ he told Sky Sports News.
‘I thought he was a truly terrific little player. Jackie [McNamara] used him very, very well last season.
‘He’s only 17 but he’s technically very, very good. I think he’s made a very brave move [going to Sporting] but I think it’s also the right one.
‘If there’s a list of clubs in Europe who have a record of producing very good young players, Sporting Lisbon will be right up there along with the likes of Ajax.
‘I think it’s terrific and a real shot in the arm for Scottish football. You’ve got a young, talented player going to a big, big club abroad, and it’s great for Dundee United’s academy, which has produced some good young players in the past four of five years.
‘I used to love watching him play. He had that beautiful left foot, balance, and low centre of gravity where he would drop his shoulder and go the other way.
‘You see his eye for a pass as well, so I wish him all the best for the future.’