By Noel Whelan

22nd Jun, 2021 | 4:00pm

Whelan blown away by pal's Hjelde review as Leeds open talks to sign 'gem'

Noel Whelan is excited at the prospect of Leeds United potentially signing Celtic youngster Leo Hjelde.

The former Whites hitman, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, insists young “gems” are there to be found in other countries.

On Tuesday, 22nd June, Football Insider revealed Leeds are negotiating a deal for Hjelde as they step up their youth recruitment drive.

It is understood Hjelde has been targeted because of what Leeds consider to be his enormous potential.

Hjelde went to Ross County on loan last season and impressed his manager.

Former County boss John Hughes has even gone so far as to say the youngster can become “the next Virgil Van Dijk”. [BBC Sport]

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Whelan, who knows Hughes, insists he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to his former players.

“When someone is coming out and saying he’s the next Van Dijk, wow, people will take notice,” Whelan told Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge.

“The fact that he’s already played first team football at such a young age is a testament to his ability.

“The scouts aren’t just looking abroad at £30million players. In this day and age, you can find some real rough diamonds.

“There are some gems in Scotland, like Andy Robertson, look how he’s progressed.

“Kieran Tierney is another one. There is absolutely no reason not to look for them.

“John Hughes is a great man as well, I know him from when I was doing my B-Licence. He knows his football.

“He wouldn’t talk about a player like that if he wasn’t deserving of that accolade.”

In other news, Leeds United have submitted a seven-figure bid for a striker with blistering pace.