John Collins reckons Billy Gilmour is ready to join the ranks of global elite after comparing the Scotland wonderkid to midfield greats Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Steve Clarke’s side suffered an early exit from Euro 2020 but the displays of the young Chelsea ace have already got the Tartan Army dreaming of brighter days ahead.
Defeat to Croatia saw Clarke’s crew crash out at the group stage, with classy veteran Luka Modric the man to twist the knife into Scottish hopes.
But former Celtic, Monaco and Scotland midfielder Collins believes there could be life still in the national team’s World Cup hopes after Gilmour’s introduction.
The Scots got their bid to reach Qatar off to a frustrating start back in March when they took just five points from their three opening qualifiers.
They return to action against Denmark in the September triple-header and Collins reckons Clarke can now look to Gilmour to be the beating heart of his side in the same way Pep Guardiola once turned to Xavi and Iniesta to drive on his famed Barcelona team.
Speaking to William Hill, he said: “I think in Billy Gilmour we have a great player there who is making us better. We’re always looking for players who can come into the squad and make an impact, and Billy is one of the players who has been able to do that.
“He has improved us in that middle zone of the pitch, so we’ve got that to look forward to in the next World Cup qualifying matches.
“There’s now competition for the positions in that midfield, but I’ll be very surprised if Gilmour’s not a regular for Scotland, as long as he’s playing regular club football.
“Modric was a great example to young players. He was immense from start to finish at Hampden. He knows how to get on the ball and his manager gives him that. Good teams ensure their best players get on the ball and Croatia did that well.
“But going back to Gilmour, he can be our own Modric, or Xavi or Iniesta. We can look to build around him and give him the role that those types of players have.
“He knows how to get on the ball, his body language is fabulous, his touch and awareness is superb. And that’s the shining light of the tournament for me.”
Scotland were hoping to re-write the history books at Euro 2020 and finally end the nation’s long wait to see their side make the knock-out stages of a major tournament.
But history ended up repeating itself as Clarke’s side crashed out having taken a solitary point from three games.
Collins, though, is convinced the experience will fire up Scotland to go one further in 18 months’ time.
He said: “Obviously it was disappointing, the result against Croatia and going out of the tournament, but there’s plenty of positives for Scotland and we can look ahead to the future.
“There’s a good nucleus of players in the group now and there’s a few in their prime with many good years ahead of them, and that can only help the Scotland team. Stevie Clarke has just got to keep working with them and keep developing them.
“But this group of players, the fans can be proud of. They’ve given us a lot of joy reaching this tournament and it’s brought a lot of happiness and excitement to the nation.
“Everybody has had a taste of the major tournament now and had a nice summer, so it’s a case of trying to replicate this for the future and be part of these big tournaments moving forward.”