ANGE POSTECOGLOU has revealed he wanted to sign Japanese international striker Kaoru Mitoma who is now valued in the £40million class by Brighton.

The frontman first came on the Celtic manager’s radar when he was an emerging talent at Kawasaki Frontale.

Mitoma and Reo Hatate were the eye-catching double-act at the club five years ago and Postecoglou would have loved to have teamed them up at Parkhead.

The Hoops gaffer admitted: “I did try to get Mitoma, but it was already almost done for him to go to Brighton.

THAT’S MY BHOY…Ange Postecoglou congratulates Reo Hatate on his first goal for Celtic in the 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle on January 26 last year.

“In fact, he and Kyogo Furuhashi were the first two players I tried to bring across here to Celtic.

“Mitoma would have been a great signing, but, unfortunately for us, Brighton also have a good scouting network.

“They managed to pick him up, but there was never any doubt in my mind that he was going to be a top player. He’s done well in the Premier League, which hasn’t surprised me at all.”

Thankfully, Postecoglou had better fortune in his quest to sign midfielder Hatate and the action man arrived in January last year alongside Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi to join up with countryman Kyogo Furuhashi.

The champions’ boss said: “Reo got into professional football late after being at university. He didn’t make his debut in Japan until he was 21.

“He only had a few years over there before Celtic. But I’d watched him and he broke in at the same time as Mitoma at Kawasaki Frontale.

TOP OF THE PILE…Kyogo Furuhashi is hoisted high by Matt O’Riley after hitting one of his first-half hat-trick in the 9-0 romp against Dundee United at Tannadice in August. Filipe Jota is about to join in the celebrations.

“They were outstanding from the first moment they started playing. I knew Reo was going to be a very good footballer – with the potential to reach the very top.

“And he’s been excellent for us. He’s only been here just over a year and has already made great strides. But he’s still got so far to go in the game.

“He’s going to be a top player and that’s what he’s working hard at every day. Thankfully, right now he’s doing it for our club.”

Hatate, though, could miss out on today’s noon kick-off against Ross County in Dingwall as he striggles to overcome the hamstring strain that saw him limp off after only 13 minutes in the 3-1 win over Hibs just over a fortnight ago.

Looking at the match against Malky Mackay’s side, Postecoglou, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “We had a really strong middle part of the season after the World Cup and before the break.

“We wanted to lay a strong foundation to go and finish the season, which we did.

“Our results were outstanding and the performances just as good. We scored a lot of goals and the boys are ready to finish strong now.

“If we can perform in the last part as well as we did in the middle part, we’ll be in a good place. That starts against County. It’s always a challenge going up to Dingwall because Malky has his players so well prepared.

“It’s always a physical game, but we’ll be ready for it. Every game will have an edge to it now because all the teams are playing for something.

“I’m sure each game we play home or away will have a little bit of desperation about it. But we’ve been gearing ourselves up for a big finish.”

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and best action images from Ross County v Celtic this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.

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