On yesterday’s showing Reo Hatate proved that he’s one of the best full backs in the Scottish Premiership.
And he doesn’t even play there.
The midfielder stepped in for the injured Tony Ralston and showed all his versatility with a man of the match display as he and his team mates blew away St Johnstone at Celtic Park.
To add goals either side of a double from countryman Kyogo Furuhashi was the icing on the cake and rounded off a impressive day at the office for the Japanese Bhoys.
Discussing the decision to play him in defence Ange Postecoglou said:
“When I spoke to him about it yesterday he was all in. He said no problem, whatever you need I’ll do it.
He was great. His overall performance was really strong, and credit to him!”
WORLD CUP DISAPPOINTMENT
For those of us who watch Hatate and Furuhashi star week in week out for Celtic, it was something of a surprise that neither would be joining team mate Daizen Maeda in Qatar for the greatest show on earth this winter.
Hatate – who frequently blogs at fromtheathlete.com – has been quiet on that front, but no doubt that missing the chance to represent his country on the biggest stage will have hurt a player who has excelled at Celtic Park since his arrival from the J-League in January of this year.
His exclusion on that occasion however may just be the very thing that kicks Hatate on to greater heights.
And that’s got to be a good thing for both him and for Celtic.
A determined but unassuming character, Hatate will be 28 by the time the next World Cup rolls around in 2026. An age generally accepted as the peak years for a footballer.
Harsh as it may sound, if he doesn’t feature in the World Cup for Japan in 2026, then he likely never will.
Which is exactly what will be driving the former youth international’s every move.
A RENEWED FOCUS
Though his current contract still has three and a half years to run, it’s unrealistic to think that Hatate will still be plying his trade for Celtic by the time North America 2026 rolls around.
He still has much to achieve in green and white before any talk of a move elsewhere should be entertained however. And in Ange Postecoglou he has the perfect coach to help him achieve his World Cup dream.
It’s easily forgotten just how new to top flight football Hatate is, having made his professional debut just three years ago with Kawasaki Frontale in December 2019.
Just thirty-six months as a professional footballer!
At Celtic we’ve enjoyed twelve of those months during which he’s lifted a Scottish Premiership Trophy, A Scottish League Cup, and several Man of the Match awards.
If his first calendar year at Celtic Park is anything to go by then it may just be time to get really excited about what’s to come next from Reo Hatate.
Whether that’s from right back or in the centre of midfield will be up to Ange!
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