A PIECE of fatherly wisdom often imparted to me as I strolled fairly naively through my teenage years was 'if it seems too good to be true, it probably is'.

It's a proverb I take heed of on a regular basis now to temper any expectations or excitement in every walk of life, ranging from memories of my few years on Glasgow's dating carousel to watching Scotland try to navigate the Nations League play-offs and being one under par after five holes at my golf club. Eight over remains my best scratch score.

As far as I can tell, the vast majority of Celtic fans seem to be following this mantra with regards to the emergence of young Karamoko Dembele.

Making his Celtic under-20s debut at 13 years old, receiving Scotland under-16 call-ups at the same age and being invited to train with his club's first team by Brendan Rodgers before being handed his debut by Neil Lennon a few months later did nothing but fuel the flames of expectancy roaring around Dembele.

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The long and short of it is that, at a fraction closer to his 19th birthday than his 18th, Dembele has played 112 minutes of first-team football for Celtic.

Of course, the kid's 18 years old, but Celtic fans have long been under the impression he's a special case. Only two years ago, French publication L'Equipe listed him as one of six 'outstanding young players set to revolutionise the game'.

This was supposed to be Dembele's breakthrough year with the first-team slate wiped almost clean and James Forrest being the only experienced winger in the squad, but an injury suffered in the latter stage of pre-season rendered him useless for Ange Postecoglou's competitive infancy at Celtic and he's not expected to return until around Halloween, at which point he'll have Jota, Liel Abada, Mikey Johnston and, depending on Postecoglou's intensions, Kyogo Furuhashi in front of him in the pecking order as well as Forrest.

Celtic Way: Dembele suffered a frustrating and painful injury in pre-seasonDembele suffered a frustrating and painful injury in pre-season

It's very important to recognise Dembele only became an adult this year and he did make three substitute appearances after the Premiership split - amounting to half-an-hour in total - but when looking at a few other players of a similar age thriving at elite clubs it's hard to refrain from wondering why Dembele's total time on the pitch amounts to less than a double-period of maths.

Before I begin here, I'm not, in any way, saying Dembele is as good as these players. It's all relative though when considering the levels. But, for example, Barcelona's Pedri began last season aged 17 and played all but one La Liga game before shining for Spain at the Euros and furthering his reputation at the Tokyo Olympics.

Jude Bellingham was playing regularly for Birmingham City aged 16, played regular Champions League football for Borussia Dortmund aged 17 and only turned 18 during the European Championship, which he was involved in as part of the England squad.

Liverpool's Harvey Elliot, who turned 18 this year as well, flourished at Blackburn Rovers in the Championship last season and was a serious cog in Jurgen Klopp's machine at the start of this campaign before his stomach-turning ankle dislocation against Leeds at the weekend.

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Barcelona's Ansu Fati (who was also on that L'Equipe list), Bayern Munich's Jamal Musiala and Eduardo Camavinga, who's just signed for Real Madrid from Rennes, are three other 18-year-olds who've sustained serious game-time at an elite level. Like, really, the highest levels of the club game domestically and continentally. 

Again, I'm not profferring Dembele should be playing alongside one of them, I'm asking why hasn't he racked up a similar amount of playing time at Celtic's level?

The moral of the story is that if these guys are deemed good enough to play at the top, top level, why is Dembele not good enough to play in the Scottish Premiership?

The Athletic reported last December there were concerns about his "physical development" as well as his "application and attitude". This would go some way to explaining his peripheral involvement, especially in a year when a massively underperforming Celtic "originally planned" to use him as the understudy for Forrest, who was then injured for almost the entire season, yet even that didn't illuminate Dembele's pathway to the first-team any brighter.

Dembele hasn't exactly disgraced himself or wasted the small chances that have come his way over the past few seasons after his debut against Hearts on the final day of the  2018-19 season. He even netted in May, scoring the fourth in a routine win over St Johnstone. 

Callum McGregor, Kieran Tierney, Forrest and, to an extent, Anthony Ralston are the only successful academy graduates in recent years and Dembele was expected to be first on the, somewhat stuttering, conveyor belt for this era we're living in now.

At the moment it feels like he's going to get stuck behind the flaps and, when his contract expires in May, Celtic are just going to have to file him under lost property.