Alex McLeish has tipped Celtic youngster Leo Hjelde to develop into a top player after John Hughes’ rave review.

The former Scotland manager, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, insisted the Ross County boss was a fantastic judge of young talent, especially when it comes to defenders.

As quoted by BBC Sport, Hughes claimed the 17-year-old is going to be “the next (Virgil) van Dijk” after his impressive performances on loan.

Hjelde has played nine times since joining Hughes’ side on loan in January and scored his first goal against Kilmarnock last month.

He is yet to make his senior bow for Celtic, although he was on the bench for the 1-1 draw with Hibernian back in January.

McLeish admitted Hughes was making a “big statement” with his comments.

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However, he insisted his old pal knew what he was talking about.

“Big Yogi, John Hughes, has been around, a big friend of mine,” McLeish has told Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge.

“He was a great player for me at Hibs and John has got a very good eye for young players. Being a centre-back himself, he would be able to make a judgement on that, he’ll be able to make comparisons.

“Certainly John is still with it in terms of the modern-day football. For that, you need young players taking the ball, being composed. First and foremost though, can he head the ball and can he defend? They’re the most important aspects for a centre-back.

“I’m not gonna argue with John Hughes, he’s bigger than me anyway. It is a big statement to say he could. John’s not saying he is going to become a Virgil but he’s saying he could be. 

“That can sometimes be a heavy burden but on the other hand it’s a target for the young man.” 

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