REO HATATE failed to deliver in the Celtic engine room during the anticlimactic 2-1 Champions League loss against Lazio at Parkhead in midweek.

Brendan Rodgers urgently required all his players functioning at their highest levels in a must-win encounter, but the Japanese midfielder, so influential when he is at the peak of his powers, didn’t come anywhere near the requirements.

Stats have highlighted the fact Hatate had only 48 touches of the ball during his 72 minutes on the pitch before being replaced by on-loan Benfica man Paolo Bernardo.

BLOODY HELL…Reo Hatate is forced off the pitch at Fir Park after catching a boot in the face.

Alarmingly, central defender Nat Phillips had 69 touches – and he was replaced by Cameron Carter-Vickers 10 minutes before the removal of the playmaker.

A couple of days ahead of the vital confrontation with the Serie A aces, CQN implored Hatate to stand up and be counted.

We made the plea in the knowledge the 25-year-old action man had failed to spark since the start of the season and had yet to last 90 minutes in any outing.

Hatate has been puzzlingly short of form and appears to lack his usual stamina to get around the pitch to maintain involvement, a major strength in his armoury.

Every player who has ever kicked a ball will have spells when they are not at their best, when every bounce seems to be against them. It’s part and parcel of the game.

However, it’s Hatate’s disturbing and protracted plunge in form that is so baffling. The former Kawasaki Frontale player has been a pivotal figure in the Hoops first team since his whirlwind start to his new career shortly after his arrival in January 2022.

SHOVE OFF…Reo Hatate is blocked by Motherwell defender Bevis Mugabi.

He won the Man of the Match accolade on his debut – a 2-0 win over Hibs at Parkhead – and the dynamic performer took centre stage in the same arena the following month when he rifled two shots into the net of the Ibrox visitors in an emphatic 3-0 success.

That breathtaking virtuoso performance propelled Celtic to the Premiership pinnacle for the first time in 18 months and they remained in pole position for the remainder of the term to claim their tenth title in 11 years.

Alas, that display is anchored in the past. Hatate didn’t even last an hour in the opening Champions League Group E outing against Feyenoord in Rotterdam where he made way for Swedish youngster Odin Holm who was red-carded 11 minutes later in the 2-0 setback.

He missed the late drama at Fir Park a week ago today after being removed from the action in the 76th minute with David Turnbull coming on.

Nine days ago, Hatate pledged his immediate future to the champions by signing a new five-year deal.

It’s time for him to repay some of the faith placed in him by Brendan Rodgers and the club’s hierarchy. This afternoon against Kilmarnock at Parkhead would be an ideal setting for him to show he was worth the extended negotiations.

We repeat: Will the real Reo Hatate please stand up?

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Kilmarnock this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.

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