Leeds United monitor promising Celtic youngster but trio of first team summer transfers prioritised
Leeds United are monitoring Celtic teenager Leo Hjelde as they plot a fresh round of academy and Under 23s recruitment.
The Whites' planned first team additions, in the form of a left-back, central midfielder and winger, will take priority this summer before attention turns to bolstering the ranks of Mark Jackson's Premier League 2 side.
The YEP understands Hjelde is one of several youngsters on the domestic scene and abroad who are on Leeds' radar, with three or four signings anticipated.
The defender doesn't turn 18 until August but gained senior first team experience in the Scottish Premiership last season on loan at Ross County.
Leeds are keen to add a centre-half to the Under 23 side this summer, with Oliver Casey likely to depart the club for a permanent move to Blackpool.
The 17-year-old left-sided defender signed for the Hoops from Rosenborg two years ago, signing a three-year deal, and headed out on loan in January.
Hjelde started seven games and scored one goal in the Scottish top tier for Ross County, playing at centre-back, left-back and left midfield, and earned rave reviews from then Staggies boss John Hughes who tipped him to be the 'next Virgil Van Dijk.'
"Leo is going to be the next Van Dijk - trust me on that," said Hughes, who addressed the Whites' interest in the defender in April.
"The quality he has shown, the physical challenge, playing real men's football and standing up to it - it's been a wonderful experience for Leo.
"Before he came, Leeds United were after him. I think he had to sign an extension to his contract for the loan to go through. He’s got massive things in front of him. He won’t be far away from Celtic’s first-team when he goes back.
“This will do him the world of good. Training and playing with men, getting battered about and coming back for more. He’s got more in the locker. He’s got a great left foot."
Ross County centre-back Coll Donaldson echoed Hughes' appreciation for the Celtic prospect after he helped the Staggies avoid the drop last season.
"Leo has been great," he told Not The Old Firm."You have to look at his age. He is only 17 years of age. It’s quite easy to forget that because he doesn’t really play like a 17-year-old. It’s his first experience of men’s football and it’s a relegation battle. It’s the hardest challenge to come into. But I think that is the type of player he is. He’s very confident in his own ability and he’s played different positions. He’ll have a bright future if he continues to play the way he is doing.
"Leo will do what’s best for him. He’ll have his family and agent and he’ll decide whether or not he wants to try it down south. But he’s at a big club in Celtic so he’ll assess it."
Hjelde, who has featured for the Norway Under 18 side and scored in last week's 2-1 friendly defeat by Portugal, is the son of former Rosenberg and Nottingham Forest defender Jon Olav.