NEW Celtic signing Luis Palma has declared himself ready to make his debut against Rangers – and admitted that being involved in the Old Firm match will be a bigger thrill than squaring up to global football icon Lionel Messi.

Honduran winger Palma completed his £3.5m move from Greek club Aris Salonika to the Scottish champions on Wednesday and is eager to feature in the cinch Premiership fixture at Ibrox tomorrow afternoon.

The six-times capped 23-year-old is no stranger to huge games; he took part in an international friendly against Argentina at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami in front of 65,000 fans last season before the World Cup finals in Qatar. 

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“Am I ready for Rangers?” he said. “One hundred per cent. If I am chosen then of course I am ready. It would be a really big moment for me. I know the importance of the match and the importance of Celtic getting the win.

“Playing for Celtic in the derby would be the biggest match of my career. Even bigger than playing against Messi? Of course! 

“I played against him for Honduras in Miami in front of a big crowd. He is an amazing player and that was a big moment. It was an incredible experience and this will be another one.”

The Herald:

Palma, who attracted interest from Rangers earlier this summer, confessed the chance to play in the Champions League this season was one of the reasons he was keen to move to Celtic.

He stressed that he is looking forward to the Group E games against Feyenoord, Atletico Madrid and Lazio in the coming months.

“It is very exciting,” he said. “This was one of the things that attracted me to Celtic. We are going to work very hard and try to get through this group.

“It will be emotional for my family for me to be here. When I first signed they were so excited. I’ve had my childhood friends contact me and they are very happy as well. The plan was for my family to come over for Christmas – but they are going to bring it forward for the Champions League.” 

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Palma added: “I am very happy to be at Celtic. It has been quite the journey to get here. I first starting kicking a ball when I was five-years-old and then progressed to youth teams and eventually to the senior team.

“I also worked with my parents from the age of 10. We sold fruit and vegetables. I am very proud of the life I had with my parents. It helped me on my journey. We had to make a lot of sacrifices.”

Palma revealed that Emilio Izaguirre, the former Honduras left back who won no fewer than 12 major honours during the seven years that he spent as a player in the East End of Glasgow, had urged him to join Celtic. 

“When I heard about Celtic I spoke to Emilio and heard about his connection with the club,” he said. “It was an easy decision.

“Emilio told me about the success he had at Celtic and the great games he had here. He said Celtic encouraged him to develop and he encouraged me to sign for Celtic. He would not have let me go anywhere else!

“I remember watching him for Celtic when I was a child. I know he was a champion here. When I was first called up to the national team, Emilio was still there. He was a big personality in the team. We speak a lot and we are contact through things like Instagram and other things.”