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DIAWARA IS KEY TO SPL TITLE.

Byline: Alan Marshall

MITCHELL VAN DER GAAG spotted Baba Diawara's raw potential four years ago and is convinced the Maritimo hitman can make Celtic's title dreams come true.

The former Motherwell defender gave Diawara his big break when the striker joined the Portuguese club as a teenager in 2007, fresh off the plane from Senegal.

Now Baba is on the verge of a pounds 4million move to Parkhead and van der Gaag believes he ticks all the right boxes.

And while other players have more flair than the 23-year-old, no one showed more desire to learn than Baba - as the Senegalese striker sent most of his wages home to help out his poor family in Dakar.

That is why Mitch, who spent two years at Fir Park in the mid-1990s and was at Maritimo for nine years as player, coach and boss, is overjoyed Diawara caught Lennon's eye.

He said: "I spoke to Baba on Monday morning after I had heard there was a potential move to Celtic and he said it was close to being done.

"I'm really happy for him because no one deserves it more. There are plenty of players in the game who get big ideas the minute they sign a contract and stop working - not Baba.

"He just wanted to improve as a player. He was not earning big money at Maritimo but sent a lot of it back home to his family in Senegal. He was supporting them, even though he's not that old himself. This is a dream move for a kid like him."

Mitch first laid eyes on Diawara in 2007 when he came on trial from Senegal club Jeanne d'Arc.

He added: "I had just taken over as the coach of Maritimo B, the reserve team. He had a lot of things missing, tactically and in terms of skill.

ATTITUDE "But we took him on as I felt he had something. Baba had a great shot, great pace and can jump really well even though he is not a tall guy.

"His biggest asset is his attitude. He was hungry to get on in the game.

"He scored 10 goals for me in the reserve team and got promoted to the first team under Sebastiao Lazaroni who coached Brazil at Italia 90.

"When I took over I played him up front with a Brazilian called Kleber and they formed a great partnership. Kleber joined Porto this summer and is now their main striker."

CAPTION(S):

DRIVEN J Van der Gaag is a big fan of new Celtic arrival Baba DELIGHTED J Van der Gaag
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:6SENE
Date:Aug 30, 2011
Words:433
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