REO HATATE is a man on a mission as he prepares to launch himself into the new season.

The Japanese international midfielder started only 17 of Celtic’s 50 games during an injury-plagued campaign last time out.

Hatate cut a frustrated figure at the beginning of Brendan Rodgers’ comeback crusade when he was on the substitutes’ bench for the Premiership opener against Ross County at Parkhead on August 5 with David Turnbull getting the nod.

The fans’ favourite, signed from J-League Kawasaki Frontale in January 2022, came on in the second-half and it was the same story in the second match against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL…Reo Hatate holds aloft the Scottish Cup after the 1-0 win over Rangers at Hampden on May 25.

Rodgers again started with the Scot in pole position, but Hatate made an appearance for the start of the second-half. Twenty-five minutes later, he limped off to be replaced by new Bhoy Odin Holm.

The 26-year-old playmaker was tormented by hamstring and calf problems throughout a stop-start season in which he played only two entire games out of his overal 21 outings.

Now, though, Hatate is relishing the challenges that lie ahead – and has repeated his ambition to play at the top level in England, Italy or Spain.

The gifted performer told Japanese media outlet Sportiva: “There are still many higher leagues, so if I can challenge for those leagues, I want to do so.

“Unless I aim for that, there is no point in continuing as an athlete, so I want to keep aiming high.

“I would like to play in the Premier League, as well as in Spain and Italy, which I am personally interested in.

“For the Japanese national team, the final Asian qualifiers start in September, so I would like to gain experience there again.”

IN CONTROL…Reo Hatate shrugs off a challenge from Muhamed Diomande during the Hampden triumph.

Hatate has clear thoughts on what he hopes to achieve, but he can only do that if he performs well at a consistent level for the champions.

Injury hampered him last term, but there was also a rebuke from Rodgers after his unimpressive performance in the 2-1 win over Philippe Clement’s Ibrox side at Parkhead on May 11.

Hatate was hooked for his countryman Tomoki Iwata before the end and the Hoops boss explained: “My message at 2-1 was to keep the ball and manage the game.

“That’s why Reo Hatate came off. He’s a big talent, but he gives the ball away too much for my liking.

“As a midfielder, you have to control the game. You have to show love for the ball and take care of it. It was too loose and sloppy. The game became more tense than it should have been.”

Hatate, who signed a five-year extension in September, knows the standards that are demanded by the Irishman and will realise the talking must stop when the Premiership kicks off against Kilmarnock on Flag Day at Parkhead on Sunday, August 4.


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