DAIZEN MAEDA is “the steal of the century”, according to Celtic goalscoring great Chris Sutton.

The one-time England international striker claims the non-stop Japanese speedster is a player the opposition must hate – while his team-mates thrive on his dynamic drive throughout his minutes on the pitch.

Sutton played alongside Didier Agathe at the Hoops after the pacy French wide Bhoy was snapped up by Martin O’Neill from Hibs when his short-term contract was coming to an end.

BHOY RACER…Didier Agathe in flying action as he takes on a Dundee defender.

Alex McLeish was the Easter Road club’s boss who had to accept a cut-price fee for the forward who could have walked for free in a few months after an astonishing start to the 2000/01 season. Agathe was in scintillating form in a 5-2 home win for the Edinburgh team over Dundee with the Hoops gaffer watching from the stand.

A move to bring the exciting raider to Parkhead was set in motion that afternoon.

Sutton said: “A lot of people will point to the £50,000 it cost to sign Didier Agathe being an incredible bit of business. But to land Maeda for just over a million looks like the steal of the century.

“He’s about three or four signings rolled into one. What a bit of business.

“I get the Agathe comparisons because sometimes the final ball is not quite there. But, like him, you simply cannot fault his phenomenal output and his worth to the team.

“Maeda’s team-mates must love him – but opposition players will hate him. If you had 10 Maedas in the team you wouldn’t go wrong. He must be a total nightmare for defenders.

“He literally never stops. He was relentless for 90 odd minutes at Livingston and still had the power and pace to beat his man for his goal after giving him a head start.”

ON THE RUN…Daizen Maeda leaves Livingston defender Tom McPake in his slipstream before thumping in No.3.

Maeda, who originally joined on a loan deal from Yokohoma F Marinos in January 2022 which became permanent in the summer, earned praise from Brendan Rodgers for his selfless display in the win in West Lothian where the champions had to play for over a hour with only 10 men after keeper Joe Hart’s red card.

Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Rodgers raved about him being worth two men at the weekend and it was no wonder. His work-rate was absolutely phenomenal. He’s like a closing-down machine.

“I can’t remember seeing a forward who works as hard – he’s like an Olympic athlete. Listen, I get that he can sometimes divide opinions before of his final ball or his finishing. Sure, some of that leaves a lot to be desired.

“But then you look at his goal at the weekend. It was absolutely outstanding. He produced that little chopping Cruyff turn and then curled one into the top corner. That was top drawer. And it showed he has got it in his locker.

“There may be questions about him producing that kind of quality on a regular basis, but, let’s be honest, if he did that every week as well as the incredible work-rate then Celtic wouldn’t be able to afford him.”

THAT’S MY BHOY…Matt O’Riley congratulates Daizen Maeda following his goal against Livingston.

Sutton looked at Maeda’s worth to the team and the fear factor for the opposition and added: “You look at the games against Rangers. I’d bet Maeda is one of the first names on the team sheet.

“He completely nullifies the attacking threat of James Tavernier down that flank – while also posing a danger himself. He’s been absolutely vital in these games. Tavernier’s heart must sink when he sees his name on the team sheet.

“In games like Saturday’s, he’s worth his weight in gold. Rodgers could keep two men up front because he knew Maeda would cover the yards.

”I have already seen improvements in his game technically and I think it will help him even more working with Harry Kewell. He was a superb striker in his day with Liverpool and Leeds and I’m sure some of his tricks of the trade will be picked up by Maeda. You saw that with the bit of skill he showed for his goal.

“I’m convinced Maeda will only get better. He’s only 25 and is developing all the time.

“It doesn’t really matter where he is on the pitch as you know he’s going to work the legs off defenders and really help his team.”

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