From Paris to Glasgow via London, Celtic striker Moussa Dembele has packed a lot into his short footballing career.
The 20-year-old has enjoyed a dream start to life at Celtic Park where he has already netted 12 goals since his summer move from Fulham and has been keeping last season’s top scorer Leigh Griffiths out of the starting line-up.
Not content with grabbing a hat-trick against Old Firm rivals Rangers -– the first treble in the fixture by a Celtic player since 1973 -– the French forward showed he can handle European competition as he grabbed a double in the thrilling 3-3 Champions League draw with English giants Manchester City.
A superb goal on his France under-21 debut in the 5-1 win over Georgia last week and a follow-up in the 3-0 win over Northern Ireland means his stock continues to rise, with the striker’s early season form earning him a nomination for the 2016 Golden Boy award handed to Europe’s best player under the age of 21.
Dembele would find himself in prestigious company if he beats off Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and countryman Kingsley Coman to the award with past winners including Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi.
It’s an incredible rise for a footballer who started out kicking a ball about the streets of Pontoise –- a commune in the northwestern suburbs of Paris –- before starring at youth level for French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
However, Dembele left in 2012 aged just 16 to join English side Fulham in the hope of playing more first team football.
His debut came the following year in the Premier League before the Londoners were relegated to the Championship. Last year, Dembele became a regular for the Craven Cottage outfit and his form of 19 goals in 64 appearances saw him linked with moves to several high-profile Premiership clubs before the forward opted to sign for Scottish champions Celtic in a move that raised a few eyebrows.
However, the striker explained that it was the opportunity to work with manager Brendan Rodgers and the chance to test himself in the Champions League that led him to Parkhead.
“When you have a manager like Brendan who talks to you about the club and who convinces you to come, it’s a massive thing,” Dembele, who returns to domestic football with a match against Motherwell on Saturday, said.
“I had a few offers but I didn’t have the same one I had with Celtic in terms of football. I think it’s the best place for me to be.
“I signed for Celtic because it’s a massive club in Europe. As a young boy you always dream of playing in the Champions League.
“This was the next step for me after Fulham. I had to show I could do it at a high level with a massive club.”
The striker is now one of Europe’s hottest properties and the 20-year-old has even been linked with a move back to Ligue 1 giants PSG.
However, his manager says Dembele is at the best club to develop his talent.
“We were very fortunate to get a top young player,” the Celtic manager said. “He’s a French Under-21 internationalist who scores goals at that level.
“He’s happy here and, of course, he’s only just through the door. He and his representatives were keen for him to come and develop and he loves life here in Glasgow.”