Hibs head coach Neil Lennon insists 13-year-old Celtic whizkid Karamoko Dembele needs protection to ensure he does not end up like another Islam Feruz.
Playmaker Dembele made headlines around the world when he came off the bench to make his debut for the Hoops in Monday’s Under-20s’ victory over Hearts.
Striker Feruz shot to prominence at a similar age when he featured as a 14-year-old in a Tommy Burns memorial match in 2009 before moving to Chelsea two years later even though Celtic and then manager Lennon advised against the switch.
Following unsuccessful temporary spells at OFI Crete, Blackpool and Hibs, the striker is currently on loan at Belgian top-flight club Royal Excel Mouscron.
Lennon, whose side host St Mirren today in the last 16 of the Irn-Bru Cup, is hoping Dembele’s development is carefully managed.
He said: “Celtic as a club will do everything they can to protect him and do things in his best interests.
“He needs a good family set up. Don’t run too soon.
“He is obviously a talent but he is still young and needs protected and handled the right way.
“I’m sure the club will do that. We would do the same for any player we had of that talent.
“Celtic want to keep a hold of Dembele and develop him in the right way.
“I am sure there were lessons learned from Islam’s situation.
“We felt at the time that he was making the wrong decision.
“I don’t think he had the right structure in the background on the personal side of things to deal with what was lying ahead.
“I think Islam is an example and there are many other examples out there.
“I don’t know the boy’s background and his family but he’s a talent and he is good to watch, and he just needs nurtured and protected.
“We live in age where clubs are well structured to do that.”
Lennon, who is accustomed to media and public attention during his time as a Celtic player and manager, hopes Dembele is given the space to develop in private.
Lennon added: “We also need to remember he is a 13 year-old kid and I am not all that comfortable talking about him as he is so young.
“However Demble has made the headlines. There is a talent there – can we leave him alone?
“That is the most important thing.
“Dembele is still a kid and hopefully he can still have a nice upbringing and enjoy his football.
“The fact that he has some exposure in the last few moths might make things a little bit different for him.”
Lennon, meanwhile, admits he plans to name his strongest available team against the Buddies in this afternoon’s clash.
He added: “It’s a cup competition and one I’d like to win.
“Like all cups in the early stages, people say they’re not interested but when you get to the semi-finals and the final, there is real interest there.
“I would like to progress in it and I don’t foresee me making too many changes to the team.”