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Alison McConnell

Published on 24 Dec 2009

Celtic target Dmitry Verkhovtsov is tipped to become as big a name as his country’s brightest star – Alexander Hleb.

Sources at the Parkhead club have today confirmed a strong interest from Tony Mowbray in the £500,000 Belarus stopper who plays for Naftan Novopolotsk.

Mowbray – who is also ready to begin contract talks with Sheffield United defender Matthew Kilgallon inside the next week – is desperate to shore up his weak backline for the second half of the season.

And whilst the likes of Verkhovtsov are unknown quantities,

people who have seen the 23-year-old play claim he has all the qualities needed to go on and emulate the career of former Arsenal and Barcelona playmaker Hleb.

Celtic’s interest in Verkhovtsov has caused a stir in Belarus and his club manager, Igor Kovalevich, said: “After the Belarus national team’s performance in a friendly against Argentina, several European teams came up with the offers about Dmitri. We are not afraid to lose him.Source: The “He must be given a chance to grow into a top-level star.

“Today, Verkhovtsov is the best Belarus player when it comes to stopping a high cross over the box. He is very reliable playing ‘on the upper floor’.

“What he needs to add to his game is the speed and some technical skills. But he is a smart young man and a fast learner. In my opinion he is going to play in Europe successfully very soon, and he can have as big an impact as Hleb.”

Local journalist Andrei Chepa has tracked Verkhovtsov’s career and expects him to make his mark in Britain since he is suited to the physical aspect of the game.

“It is the feeling in Belarus that he has outgrown the level here,” he said. “We would like to see him in the Champions League because he is talented enough to play there.

“We have heard here that Celtic are interested in him and it has caused a bit of excitement. We know that they play in Europe and that is what many people want to see.

“The fee that has been quoted (£500,000) would be a very good price for Celtic because he will be worth much more than that very soon.”

Kilgallon, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has been a long-term target. He is free to speak to interested clubs about a Bosman transfer from January 1.

Mowbray hopes to persuade Kilgallon to join Celtic, and skipper Stephen McManus could be offered as a makeweight in any deal.

Copyright © the evening times. 2009. All Rights Reserved.

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He's actually a pretty decent player. Big and powerful, especially in the air, but not the best on the deck. He's a danger at set pieces, and he played pretty well against Croatia and Argentina. I'm sure he also played against England, and did ok against Crouch.

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