Scotland skipper Charlie Mulgrew played at the back with Scott McKenna against Costa Rica and immediately recognised his star quality.
The 21-year-old Dons defender was one of three centre-backs fielded in the 1-0 loss at Hamdpen, alongside Mulgrew and Grant Hanley.
Blackburn Rovers stopper Mulgrew witnessed the qualities that have made McKenna not just a first pick for the Dons but a wanted man elsewhere.
Hull City had four approaches for McKenna rejected by the Dons in January, with the final in excess of the £1 million mark.
McKenna is in contention to earn a second cap against Hungary in Budapest tomorrow as his rapid career ascent continues.
Mulgrew insists McKenna has all the qualities to enjoy a stellar career.
Mulgrew said: “Scott did very well against Costa Rica.
“He is a very good player who is very aggressive and has all the attributes to be a top defender and play at the top level.
“Straight away I could see that he’s a got a good left foot.
“I enjoyed playing alongside Scott.
“We are delighted to have him in the Scotland squad.
“McKenna and the other new boys should be proud of what they did in a Scotland shirt as they put a shift in.
“It is impressive that he has only broken into the Aberdeen squad this season and has now been capped, fair play to him.”
This time last year McKenna was struggling to get game time on loan at an Ayr United side bottom of the Championship.
Since breaking into the Dons first team for the 1-0 win over Motherwell in September, he has started 27 games.
McKenna has missed just two matches – St Mirren in the Scottish Cup through suspension and Celtic through injury.
The former Scotland U21 skipper recently penned a contract extension tying him to Pittodrie until summer 2023.
In earning a debut cap at 21 years old, McKenna mirrored the international breakthrough of national gaffer Alex McLeish.
Gothenburg Great McLeish made his breakthrough in 1980 and went on to win earn 77 caps and appear in three World Cup finals for his country.
McLeish’s main frustration came at the back against Costa Rica, but he underlined he was happy with McKenna’s international debut.
The Scotland boss said: “The three (centre-backs) didn’t work as well as I would have liked.
“The goal was three guys marking space and not picking up.
“However, McKenna had a decent game though.
“He had good switches of play and was up on people.
“It was a sound debut.”
Defender McKenna was one of five debut caps in McLeish’s starting line-up against World Cup-bound Costa Rica.
The other debutants were Scott McTominay, Kevin McDonald and Oli McBurnie, with Jamie Murphy winning his first cap off the bench late on.
Former Dons defender Mulgrew, named captain for the friendly, believes it is a fresh start for the national team.
He said: “This is a new era for Scotland with a new manager and new squad.
“We can take a couple of positives from the Costa Rica game.
“It’s a new squad, new staff, we have to move forward.
“We are delighted to have all these new caps involved and that will ensure we get stronger moving on.”
For a new international dawn it was wholly underwhelming, a fact not unnoticed by sections of the sparse Tartan Army who booed at half-time and full-time.
The crowd of little more than 20,000 for a new manager’s first game was indicative of both the way the SFA replaced Gordon Strachan and the replacement.
The SFA made a failed attempt to secure Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill before sounding out former Scotland boss Walter Smith.
Then they moved for McLeish, who left the Scotland managerial post in 2007 to manage Birmingham City.
Mulgrew said: “The new caps did well on their debut in difficult circumstances with the atmosphere, but it is up to us to create it. They will be happy to get their debuts and things are looking positive with the new caps.”
McLeish’s rebuilding continues apace with the trip to Budapest tomorrow, where he is expected to make major changes to the starting line-up.
Mulgrew said it will take time for the squad to gel with the UEFA Nations League fixtures against Albania and Israel beginning in September. Following that there is then the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, and McLeish has one goal – to end the major tournament drought dating to the 1998 World Cup in France.
Mulgrew said: “There is a different manager with different styles and techniques so it will take a bit of getting used to.
“It is still early days for this squad and it was encouraging with the football we played.
“In the first half we didn’t press as a team and didn’t sit off as a team, and that’s where we got most of our problems.
“Costa Rica are a good side with good individual players.
“We maybe showed them a bit too much respect in the first half.
“At half-time we sorted that and there were definitely encouraging signs.
“The message was clear at half time – to get up higher and get pressing.
“We did that and Costa Rica never had much and we dominated.
“You always want to win the game and we’re disappointed we didn’t.
“We just failed to take our chances in good areas.
“However, we need to take the positives, move on quickly and be ready when the competitive games come around.”
Defender Mulgrew, 32, led out the Scots at Hampden following the international retirement of captain Scott Brown.
Mulgrew spent two years at Aberdeen from 2008 to 2010 and is now at League One title-chasing Blackburn Rovers.
They face Bradford City at Ewood Park on Thursday night, just 48 hours after the friendly in Hungary.
Rovers boss Tony Mowbray has pleaded with McLeish to go easy on Mulgrew ahead of the crunch league clash.
However, McLeish has confirmed Scotland will come first when he makes a decision on starting Mulgrew tomorrow.
He said: “It’s not our fault the English League have put a game on that night, we can’t help that.”