GLASGOW: Olivier Ntcham is aiming to emulate Moussa Dembele by becoming the latest French import to make an impact at Celtic.
The 21-year-old midfielder followed in the footsteps of his under-21 international teammate as he made a £4.5 million ($5.8 million) move from Manchester City to the Scottish champions in the summer.
The firm friends’ fledgling careers have followed similar paths since the pair from the suburbs of Paris met when they turned out together for the France under-16 side.
While Dembele’s arrival in Glasgow came via a spell at English second-tier Championship side Fulham, Ntcham started out kicking a ball about the streets of Longjumeau — a commune in the southern suburbs of the French capital — before turning out for Le Havre’s under-23 side.
A move to English giants City materialised, but Ntcham failed to break his way into the first team and spent the last two seasons out on loan to Italian side Genoa.
His impressive displays in Serie A caught the eye of Hoops manager Brendan Rodgers, who persuaded him to make the move to Glasgow — with a little help from Dembele.
“Moussa told me the club was good, it’s big fun here,” Ntcham revealed.
“I was 16, maybe even before, 14, when we first played together for the French national team. We always stay together.”
Dembele had a dream debut season in Scotland. The striker bagged 32 goals — including a hat-trick against Old Firm rivals Rangers and a trio of Champions League goals — as he was an integral part of the Celtic side that completed an unbeaten season on the way to collecting a domestic treble.
And Ntcham, who watched as his friend’s impressive form saw him linked with a number of top clubs across Europe, revealed it was the lure of silverware and the chance to test himself in the Champions League that led him to Parkhead.
“It’s a nice feeling to be here at Celtic and I want to win everything at Celtic as I have never won a trophy before,” the 21-year-old said.
“I’m most looking forward to the derby and playing in the Champions League. Not every club gets to play in this competition, so I’m happy to have the chance to play there with Celtic.”