Former Celtic wonderkid Jeremie Frimpong has addressed fans and ultimately calmed their fears over his exit to Bayer Leverkusen two weeks ago, claiming that it wasn’t the turmoil at Celtic Park that made him leave; but the challenge that laid ahead at the BayArena was simply too exciting to turn down.
Frimpong arrived as a relative unknown from the prestigious Manchester City academy in the summer of 2019 for a measly £350,000, making an instant impact in the right-back berth for Glasgow’s green and white as Mikael Lustig departed Paradise that summer for pastures new. His diminished reputation arguably helped him in his journey of development; without a large reputation to uphold, there was very little risk on his shoulders which allowed him to perform freely. Despite the season being cut short by COVID-19, the Dutchman showed enough promise to have perked the interests of German giants Bayer who promptly made a move this winter by offering £11.5 million and a four-and-a-half year deal for wee Frimpong.
As much of a loss as it was, it was hard not to stand in Jeremie’s way; the Amsterdam-born fullback has no affiliation to Celtic, and with the German powerhouses offering first-team football against some of the world’s best sides – as opposed to away days in Dingwall – alongside an undoubted wage hike, we should hardly be berating the young man.
Speaking to the Athletic, with quotes attributed to the Glasgow Times, Frimpong said:
“It was the right time to leave Celtic because it was a big club like Leverkusen coming, rather than about Celtic. And obviously the Bundesliga was really attractive. So when they came, I was like ‘I could play in the Bundesliga!’ and that was it really.”
“I was watching Bundesliga, and Bayer Leverkusen were playing a lot. For me, I’ve always wanted to play in the top leagues, and I consider the Bundesliga to be top three in the world. I wanted to take this challenge to see if I can handle it.”
Jeremie appears to be handling the pressures of one of the world’s greatest leagues superbly well; on his debut this weekend, the flying Dutchman assisted fellow debutant Demarai Gray in an incisive counter-attack to notch up a 5-2 win over VfB Stuttgart.
“The gaffer, Neil Lennon, was the first manager to give me my start, so I’ll always respect him for that. I think I was close to everyone. First day I clicked with everyone straight away.”
“The captain Scott Brown gave me a lot of information, taught me about the game, the club. Callum McGregor was good as well, so was Boli and Jonny Hayes. They taught me how I should use my ability and adapting to the country.”
Frimpong went on to add that he found the dubious Dubai trip extremely beneficial, although he definitely felt the full force of fan backlash given how controversial it turned out to be.
“The training camp was really good, intense. It was really nice, the food was so nice as well. But I was just focused on training. For me and the Celtic guys it was a good training camp, we worked hard and I was just focused on the football.”
Nice words from a lad who never complained at Celtic Park, got his head down and ultimately tried his hardest to develop from a youth player in the shadows of the Etihad to becoming a star player in the SPFL; which has ultimately rewarded him with improving his career no doubt.