Since he was plucked from obscurity by Celtic in 2011, Victor Wanyama has wasted no time in cementing his position near the top of many a manager's wish list. The young Kenyan has yet to fully establish himself as a household name, but last night's heroics at Celtic Park won't have done his chances any harm.
Still only 21 years of age, the defensive midfielder-cum-top scorer began his career playing in his native Nairobi before appearing for the youth team of Swedish heavyweights Helsingborgs IF. He signed his first professional contract with Belgian Pro League side Beerschot AC in 2008, and was soon attracting interest from the likes of CSKA Moscow and Celtic. After numerous failed recruitment attempts by both sides, the Glasgow club finally managed to sign the player in July 2011 for the modest reported sum of £900,000.
Now in his second season with the Scottish champions, Wanyama has become known for his impressive physicality, robust tackling and eye for goal. Primarily a defensive midfielder, he occasionally finds himself deployed at the centre of defence, not least due to his excellent reading of the game - somewhat belying his tender years.
Wanyama's goal-scoring prowess first became apparent when Celtic hosted Hearts in December 2011, during which he fired a powerful shot from 25 yards which flew into the top corner, winning the game for the Bhoys. Wanyama has since added to his tally, primarily through a series of towering headers, and now finds himself Celtic's top scorer this season with four goals.
Currently in the second year of a four year contract, Wanyama last month turned down an improved contract offer from Celtic, citing the desire for a more lucrative base salary as the main reason for doing so. One expects that the reported interest of English and continental clubs, not least Arsenal, who were believed to be lining up the midfielder as a direct replacement for Barcelona-bound Alex Song, may have also played a part in his refusal to commit to Celtic.
His manager Neil Lennon has put a rather off putting £25m price tag on Wanyama, but following the integral role he played in limiting a star-studded Barcelona side to one goal last night, the midfielder will see his reputation and hunger for success soar to levels that Celtic will surely be unable to satisfy. A transfer to a top European side may be imminent.