East Asia Japan

Ange Raids the J.League 1 (Again) with Signing of Japanese Trio

Glasgow Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou has once again raided the J.League 1 for their talent, with the Scottish giants making a triple swoop on players from Japan’s top-flight. Last year’s J1 top scorer Daizen Maeda, alongside Reo Hatate and Yosuke Ideguchi, were the ones being bagged by Celtic, with the trio joining Kyogo Furuhashi at Celtic Park this winter.

The Japanese trio, described as being “at the peak of their careers,” were brought to Scotland based on Ange’s personal request, with the Australian tactician having witnessed them in action during his time as Yokohama F. Marinos head coach.

Daizen had previously worked alongside Ange at Yokohama so the latter knew all too well about his potency in front of goal. The bald striker scored 23 times in the 2021 season as Yokohama finished 2nd in the league and his Celtic outing will become the second time he had played in Europe after a brief spell with CS Maritimo back in the 2019/20 season.

Both Celtic and Yokohama agreed for the former to bring in Daizen on a loan deal, which will become permanent in the summer, and he’s expected to work together with both Furuhashi and Liel Abada in the Celtic attack.

Former Gamba Osaka midfielder Yosuke had plenty of experience in European football – having represented Leeds United, Cultural Leonesa, and Greuther Furth in the past years – and he’s expected to provide some additional steel to the Bhoys midfield. Injuries may have hampered his previous European adventure but Ange had seen a potential within him that enticed the Australian to bring him to Celtic Park.

Fellow midfielder Hatate, on the other hand, was completely inexperienced in European football, however, he was one of the crown jewels of a dominant Kawasaki Frontale side that won four J1 titles in the previous five years. Hatate’s departure to Celtic meant that Kawasaki’s youthful trio in recent years – himself, Kaoru Mitoma, and Ao Tanaka – have all left for Europe, with Mitoma now playing for Union SG in Belgium on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion, while Tanaka is playing his football in Germany with Fortuna Dusseldorf on a loan deal.

Japan-based football journalist Dan Orlowitz was quite optimistic about the trio’s prospect in Scotland, with Furuhashi having adapted quickly with European football to become the Bhoys’ top scorer so far this season.

Speaking to BBC Scotland, Dan said, “Postecoglou understands Japanese players and how to get the best out of them. A lot of managers know instinctively they’re good but may not understand how to work with them. Postecoglou does and that has allowed Kyogo to do what he’s done.”

“It is a step up in terms of physicality, pace, the endurance players need to get through games compared to in Japan,” Dan continued, “It is a challenge, and one I don’t think every player is capable of succeeding in. But Scotland, in particular, is attractive because it provides a gateway to the English Premier League.”

Dan concludes, “Signing all three is a massive coup and they’ve been doing a lot of good in terms of promotion in Japan. Having three players of national team caliber will magnify that and, if Celtic can do well in Europe, Japan is their oyster in terms of sponsorships.”

Ange himself was delighted by the trio’s signing, saying as quoted from BBC Sport, “Clearly I am well aware of their attributes and I think in bringing all three to the club we are bringing even more quality, personality, and energy to the squad to work with the players who have done so well for us already this season. They are all really at the peak of their careers, ambitious to achieve more success and I am sure at this particular time we will be getting their best years.”