BRENDAN RODGERS is planning on unleashing a new, improved Reo Hatate in the forthcoming season.

The returning Celtic manager is already aware of the qualities of the in-demand Japanese midfielder who was an immediate hit with the Hoops fans after a double salvo in a crucial 3-0 victory over Ibrox visitors on February 2 2022.

Hatate had arrived just over a month beforehand as Ange Postecoglou completed a triple swoop on the J-League as he also brought in Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi.

The Hoops’ triumph that memorable evening at a pulsating, sell-out Parkhead rocketed Celtic to the Premiership pinnacle for the first time in 18 months and they remained in pole position to go on and lift their tenth title in 11 years.

DERBY DAZE…Japanese double-act Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda celebrate the 3-0 win over Ibrox opposition at Parkhead on February 2 2022.

It was a similar tale last term as Postecoglou signed off with a world record domestic treble as the team sealed their 53rd championship in fine style.

Twenty-five-year-old Hatate has played a massive role in the club’s success since he arrived on these shores as he has produced consistent performances that have brought envious glances from elsewhere.

Inevitably, the all-action international has been linked with Postecoglou at Spurs while there has been reported interest from other Premier League sides with Brighton regularly getting a mention.

However, Rodgers has no intention of allowing Hatate, under contract until June 2026, to leave and insists the gifted individual has a gigantic crusade ahead of him on the home and European fronts.

The Irishman said: “Reo will have gained invaluable experience from playing against the best players and best teams in the best stadiums. Going up against world-class players only helps.

REO BRAVO…new Japanese Bhoy Reo Hatate celebrates his first goal for the club as he leaves ex-Celtic keeper Craig Gordon helpless in the Hoops’ 2-1 victory over Hearts at Tynecastle on January 26 2022. 

“I watched the Champions League games last season and Reo was excellent.

“Against Real Madrid at home, he was very good. These experiences just enrich you and enhance your personals development as a player. No doubt he will benefit from more of that this season.”

Rodgers, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “Reo’s in great physical condition, he’s quick and technically very good. In the opening few weeks, I’ve seen his tactical ideas as well.

“So, he’s one I’m looking forward to working with more.

“He’s showed up well at Celtic already, scoring big goals in big games. I can imagine there’s been interest in him because that’s always the case for good players. But he’s a player I really like and hope to help develop him further.

“For every player there is always learning that takes place. We have a number of players in their early to mid 20s, so there is still development for them to improve.”

Hatate will be given another opportunity to put his wide range of skills on display in the friendly against Yokohama F Marinos today – 11am UK kick-off – in the first game of the champions’ pre-season tour of his homeland.

The Hoops also take on Gamba Osaka on Saturday – with another 11am start – before flying home.

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Yokohama F Marinos v Celtic today – only in your champion CQN.

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