Denmark Under-21 boss reckons his country have unearthed a gem in Celtic midfielder Matt O’Riley after making ‘promising’ first impression

The 21-year-old played for England at youth level before recently switching his international allegiance

Matt O’Riley has already won over the Celtic fans with a series of composed performances and Denmark Under-21 manager Jesper Sorensen reckons his country may have unearthed a diamond.

The 21-year-old joined the Hoops in January from MK Dons and has caught the eye for Ange Postecoglou’s league leaders.

Now O’Riley will aim to make his mark on the international stage after recently opting to switch his international allegiance from England to the Danish set-up - the country of his mother’s birth.

Celtic's Matt O'Riley during a UEFA Conference League Last 32 first leg match against Bodo/Glimt.Celtic's Matt O'Riley during a UEFA Conference League Last 32 first leg match against Bodo/Glimt.
Celtic's Matt O'Riley during a UEFA Conference League Last 32 first leg match against Bodo/Glimt.

O’Riley played for the Three Lions at Under-16 and Under-18 level during his time at Fulham and MK Dons and Sorensen has issued a glowing report of the midfielder after his initial link-up with the Scandinavian country.

Speaking to The Herald, he said: “The purpose with the Under-21 side in Denmark is that all players should be able to make the step to the ‘A’ team, that’s what the overall purpose is for us.

“What we have seen from Matt right now is very good. Of course, I have players in my team and squad that are ahead of Matt, and players who could play with us and are already with the ‘A’ team, but we think he is promising.

“We cannot predict who is going to take the step to the next level, but right now he is in a very good position to take that next step up from the Under-21s.

“Of course, we play to get to the Under-21 Euros, and we would like to participate in that tournament, but why not?”

O’Riley might not possess electric pace but it is his technical qualities that have impressed Sorensen.

Celtic's Matt O'Riley (R) has a strike at goal during a Scottish Cup match between Dundee United and Celtic.Celtic's Matt O'Riley (R) has a strike at goal during a Scottish Cup match between Dundee United and Celtic.
Celtic's Matt O'Riley (R) has a strike at goal during a Scottish Cup match between Dundee United and Celtic.

He added: “It doesn’t look as though he is impressively fast, and yet still he is playing at a very high level with Celtic and he is able to make an impact on the games and on his squad.

“That tells me that what he does well - the way he sees the game, his skillset, his left foot is at a very, very high level - is so good that he would otherwise not be able to play at that very high level.”

Sorensen reckons the youngster’s ability to adapt quickly to making the step up from League One in England to Celtic will aid his development, insisting Parkhead in the ideal place for him to improve various aspects of his game.

He stated: “For a young man, to be able to take steps as he has done in the last 15 months, I would not be the one to say where he can or cannot play.

“I think the world is open for him, and it is up to him to make the best of it, that’s the way I see it.

“In my daily work, I experience a lot of young, promising players. Some of them take it even further than I thought they would, and others are not where I thought they would be in regards to the steps I thought they could take with their talent.

Celtic's Matt O'Riley in action against Dundee United.  (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)Celtic's Matt O'Riley in action against Dundee United.  (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Celtic's Matt O'Riley in action against Dundee United. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

“I saw Celtic against FC Midtjylland at the start of the season, and right now it is a completely different team in my opinion, they are way better.

“Matt is playing regularly for Celtic at such a young age, and coming to the club and playing that early not as a star player.

“If Celtic buy a guy from Juventus then okay, he is going to play, but if they buy a young guy from MK Dons, you expect him to need a little time to get into the team, but that’s not the case here. He has made his mark immediately, and that is pretty impressive.

“To me, he definitely has strengths, and of course, there are sides to his game that are not that good, But it’s up to him to prove that he can take that next step and take it to the next level.

“He’s only 21, and I’m just looking forward to seeing him in games and in training sessions with us.”

It’s not the first time in his career O'Riley has been faced with a tough decision after previously rejecting a contract extension at Fulham to drop down the divisions with MK Dons in search of regular first-team action.

MK Dons star Matt O'Riley (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)MK Dons star Matt O'Riley (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
MK Dons star Matt O'Riley (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Sorensen believes that outlines what type of character O’Riley is.

He said: “He turned down an extension with Fulham just to go to MK Dons to play, he thought that was good for his development as a player, and I think that proves he is ambitious but also realistic.

“He thought ‘okay, I have to take one step down to take two or three steps up’, and that is actually what he has done.

“That’s a very good thing and that tells you a lot about a player.”