Romania's new 'Maradona' agrees deal to join Celtic

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Celtic will sign Maradona in January. Actually, they won't, but the hyperbole in Scotland surrounding the news yesterday that a deal for the 16-year-old Romanian midfielder, Dumitru Copil, is "90 per cent complete" was being interpreted in some quarters as almost as significant.

The teenager, a playmaker with Atletico Arad, also received offers from Liverpool and Hearts after trials, and has already been nicknamed "the new Gheorghe Hagi" and hence the new "Maradona of the Carpathians". Lest that not be sufficient to pile on the pressure and expectation, by yesterday he was also being called "the next Frank Lampard".

Copil, who has played at Under-17 level for his country and has also already been involved in the full national squad, said he decided to move to Celtic after a visit to the club in November. A £250,000 fee and wages of £1,000 per week have been provisionally agreed.

"I will be going to Celtic on 3 January," he said. "I regard this as a very big honour to join a club like Celtic because they have an excellent European tradition ... I still have studies to complete and in an ideal world I would like to finish them but I have to give football my full commitment."

Today Celtic, with a 14-point lead in the Scottish Premier League, entertain Falkirk, who have their own teenage prodigy in their ranks in the shape of the on-loan teenaged Arsenal striker, Anthony Stokes, who is the league's leading scorer.

The main match that all neutrals will be watching is the first of the weekend, the lunchtime game between second-placed Aberdeen and third-placed Rangers, two points behind them before kick-off.

A positive outcome for Paul Le Guen's visitors will allow them to renew the almost forlorn chasing down of Celtic. A win for the hosts would boost their pursuit of Champions' League football next season and bring fresh pressure upon Le Guen.

"We have to get a good result - but it will be tough. It is a hard place to play," the Frenchman said. Rangers lost twice at Pittodrie last season, and after today's game face another long away trip, to Inverness, on Wednesday.

"We have a run of tough games," Le Guen said. "But we are more consistent and we can be hopeful of getting results everywhere."

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