Music to Celtic Ears – Reo Hatate completes our Japanese Quartet

And then there were three. With deals for Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi  official confirmation from Celtic, a third now looks to be close to conclusion and this one is perhaps the most needed, the long-awaited number eight.

Florian Thauvin #14 of Team France is challenged by Reo Hatate #13 of Team Japan during the Men’s Group A match between France and Japan on day five of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at International Stadium Yokohama on July 28, 2021 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Remarkably, Celtic today confirmed the signings of Daizen Maeda from Yokohama F. Marinos, Yosuke Ideguchi from Gamba Osaka and Reo Hatate from Kawasaki Frontale. We have looked at both Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi over the last few days ahead of their arrivals in Glasgow and today we profile Reo Hatate, perhaps the most needed of the three new arrivals, the long-awaited number eight.

Reo Hatate is likely the player to replace Ryan Christie’s energy in the middle of the park and one to share the heavy lifting in central midfield, carried out almost entirely to date by Tom Rogic and the now injured but near ever present David Turnbull.

Hatate’s signing completes Celtic’s own Japanese Quartet, alongside summer signing Kyogo Furuhashi, as Ange Postecoglou looks to hit all the right notes ahead of a New Year title challenge. With Furuhashi and Maeda expected to fulfil attacking duties and Ideguchi looking an ideal as deep lying playmaking Number six, Reo Hatate appears to be the player Ange Postecoglou may look to link the play in midfield.

 Reo Hatate of Japan in action during the U-24 international friendly match between Japan and Spain at the Noevir Stadium Kobe on July 17, 2021 in kobe, Hyogo, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

As with all the Japanese players Postecoglou has signed, there is a clear versatility offered by Reo Hatate and how is this for utility options?

Hatate for J-League champions Kawasaki Frontale has played half the season in central midfield but has also spent a considerable time operating as a left back, despite being right footed, as well as filling in at left wing, right wing, a number 10 and even briefly as a striker. It seems when the Celtic Board insisted on value for money, Ange Postecoglou knew just the players to make his case, and Reo Hatate looks the most versatile of the lot. (Please note that he is NOT a left back, no more than Callum McGregor was a left back playing against Cluj in the Champions League qualifier a few seasons ago).

Since coming through the famed Juntendo University, where Hatale was part of the University team who defeated shocked Japan by defeating top flight FC Tokyo, Hatate initially trained with Kawasaki Frontale alongside his studies. In February 2020 he became a fully-fledged professional and it’s fair to say has made a significant impact, after all Hatate will leave Kawasaki Frontale as a league champion and with 77 appearances, 12 goals and 10 assists to his name.

With his contract expiring at the end of January 2022, you’d assume Celtic won’t be breaking the bank to secure the registration of the talented youngster, but a deal to settle the remainder of his contract has been sorted by Michael Nicholson as Ange Postecoglou wants his new signings in the door at Lennoxtown early. Nicholson has delivered on that today with all three targets signing so hats off to him. Credit where credit is due is only fair.

With a work permit being required, and Hatate not a full international to date, you’d assume some work may also be required to get the paperwork in order. But giving the immense promise of Hatate and the fact he’s already represented the national team at under 20, under 21, under 23 and at the Olympics, as well as being called up for the full national squad, but yet to see action, it would be an easy case to make as to his worth as a fast-developing talent. Again this should not be an issue and this is very much where Nicholson excels as an experienced lawyer and football administrator.

So what are Celtic getting from Reo Hatate? Well, the versatility is clear, however there are many strings in terms of attributes as well as positionally to Hatate’s bow.

Hatate as with our other Japanese signings is not blessed with height at 5ft7 however the lack of stature is somewhat mitigated by having a great leap and he can and will contest aerial duels. In that regard he has an edge on compatriot Ideguchi.

Although used as a left back, possibly through necessity, a great deal last season, the player being right footed, and in truth with a lack of defensive awareness, is better suited to bringing his key attributes to the fore in central midfield. He is a strong player when it comes to recovering the ball and making interceptions, with disruption of opposition moves a key asset.

When operating in central midfield his link up play is a standout area of his game as is his ability to carry the ball, making him an ideal box to box midfielder. Where Maeda perhaps takes an aggressive run but lacks in outright dribbling ability, Hatate is strong when it comes to carrying the ball and is proficient in dribbling too.


Hatate is also keen to shoot and has decent but unspectacular accuracy. He also breaks the lines well, supports his attackers, looks to receive the ball in or around the box, links well with his forwards and is happy to go for goal himself. As such he has a high volume of shots, and with promise of improvement in accuracy, Hatate could well be a key asset in causing difficulties for teams operating a low block. Music to the ears!

Of course, there are downsides to Hatate’s play. However, we should also consider the lack of football he has had, his age and the likely developments he can make.

For instance, ball retention is certainly an area that will need improvement as he can be caught pondering on the ball, and although his short passing game is tidy enough, effective progressive passing certainly has room for movement. His shooting accuracy when he progresses the ball himself lacks accuracy when compared to figures from the top European leagues, as does the number of duels he competes for aerially, this one is probably down to his height but with a good jump in his repertoire a little coaching and encouragement should see improvement.

In short Celtic again look to have unearthed a good prospect from the J League, and in Hatate possibly the one with the most improvement still likely to occur in comparison to those we’ve looked at so far.

Hatate is a technical player, but his incessant movement and pressing are ideal attributes for Ange Postecoglou’s high intensity football. His work rate is unquestionable, so even on an off day Reo Hatate will contribute, as such his teamwork is up there with any of his attributes.

Hatate’s versatility will of course be welcomed in a squad high on numbers but apparently lacking in players Ange Postecoglou can effectively trust entirely to carry out his playing philosophy. In Hatate, Ange Postecoglou has certainly found one who can, and his ability to link the play as well as an aptitude for winning back possession above all other attributes, will surely see him deployed predominately in the positions currently taken up by David Turnbull and by Tom Rogic.

As such, the signing of Reo Hatate would be both exciting and timely for a Celtic team short on contributors to a key area of the team and with David Turnbull unavailable through injury.

Much like Carl Starfelt and Kyogo Furuhashi, Reo Hatate may find his settling in period will occur in the heat of battle. However, there is little to fear as the talented star has the attributes needed to play Ange Postecoglou’s tune from the off and hit all the right notes.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

Comments are closed.