EIGHTEEN years after Bobo Balde signed for Celtic from Toulouse, fellow centre-back Christopher Jullien is set to follow a similar path.

The 26-year-old Paris-born defender will inevitably draw comparisons with Celtic’s 2002-03 Player of the Year due to his history, his position and his stature.

He will arrive in Glasgow with the ultimate desire to play in the Premier League, hoping that the greater visibility that European football affords him will allow him to make a step Balde never achieved.

“I’ve never hidden my desire to one day play in one of the big leagues and to raise my level and reach other goals,” he told France Football frankly in May.

Jullien’s rise to top-level professional has been far from typical. He only took up the game seriously aged 10, having spent two years playing handball.

At this point, he was with US Torcy, the club later made famous for producing Paul Pogba. By the time the Manchester United midfielder arrived through their doors in 2006, Jullien had already departed for Auxerre, having taken the decision to move from attack into defence following a failed trial to get into the Clairefontaine academy.

READ MORE: Celtic agree deal for Toulouse defender Christopher Jullien

At a club that has brought through international defenders such as Basile Boli, Philippe Mexes and Bacary Sagna, he impressed for the reserves and was promoted into the starting XI amid an injury crisis.

It was the break he needed as he rapidly established himself as a regular, despite playing under a youth contract.

So strong were his performances that he was called into the France squad for the 2013 Under 20 World Cup in Turkey. Jullien might not have played, but it was a valuable opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of Pogba, Florian Thauvin and Kurt Zouma as the young French side went all the way.

His pedigree was established, but his first professional years, spent with German side Freiburg, were chastening. Initially, he was caught up in the hubris of the professional footballing world, a fact he recounts when explaining how he splurged his first salary on a Mercedes.

“It was the type of car that makes you say something when you cross the street,” he said in 2016. “But I took it back after five months. Firstly, it was super expensive with petrol! But when I went to Paris with it, I heard someone on the street say something like: ‘Wow! It must be Javier Pastore!’ I said to myself: ‘Who am I to have a car like this’?”

Burned by his experience in the Bundesliga but fuelled with a desire to make it at the top level after making a brief cameo away to Bayern Munich, he returned to France more modestly, on loan with Dijon in Ligue 2.

Evening Times:

READ MORE: David Turnbull's move to Celtic could be off as issue uncovered in medical 

He proved a smash hit, earning a place in the division’s Team of the Season as Dijon won promotion, showcasing his attacking threat from set-plays by scoring nine goals in 34 matches.

A move to Toulouse followed, where he became the regular partner in the heart of the defence with Issa Diop, now of West Ham.

He might have followed his friend to the Premier League last year as Newcastle and Southampton tracked him, but he elected to stay another season in France.

“I sat down with coach Alain Casanova and we talked. He thought I was missing things from my game,” he said.

“The coach knows football and some players who have gone to the Premier League. And I’m not ready.”

The decision appeared to be a mistake as he endured his most difficult spell as a professional at the beginning of the 2018-19 season. He was regularly found to be careless in possession, wayward with his passing and wanting in his positioning.

While Jullien cites an injury niggle for his troubles, a defensive overhaul that rendered him the leader of the rearguard, a role he admitted to embracing “a little too late”, had an impact. By January, he was injury free and back to his commanding best.

By this point, Toulouse were embroiled in a relegation battle and as they fought their way to a 16th-place finish and safety, he re-emerged as one of their stars.

A player of great strength and aerial capability, he possesses a steely character and should be a formidable addition to the Celtic back line if he can eliminate the lapses of concentration that dogged him last season.

A year ago, he might well have been a €10m player, and his loss in value reflects what has been a trying 12 months. He has bounced back, however, and the €8m the Hoops are set to invest looks excellent value for a player of potential Premier League quality.