CHRIS SUTTON reckons Reo Hatate is “irreplaceable” in Ange Postecoglou’s plans of making progress at Celtic.

The Japanese midfielder has been outstanding in his first full season at Parkhead after joining along with Daizen Maeda and Yosuke Ideguchi in the January transfer window of 2022.

Hatate made an immediate impression on his debut when he was voted Man of the Match in the 2-0 win over Hibs in the east end of Glasgow only 17 days after his arrival.

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

The 25-year-old dynamo further cemented his reputation with the fans with a double strike in the 3-0 victory over their Ibrox opponents the following month to launch the Hoops to the Premiership pinnacle for the first time in 18 months – and they remained there until the end of the campaign when they lifted their tenth title in 11 years.

Hatate has excelled this time around with the club claiming the crown for a second successive year and former striker Sutton insists Postecoglou MUST keep the player if he hopes to make a dent on the Champions League in his third crusade as manager.

The one-time England international said: “It will be interesting in the summer with Ange Postecoglou talking about the prospect of some of the bigger players being sold and others coming in.

“It’s been pretty seamless so far in terms of players coming in, but at some point you might hit the buffers. It’s about what happens next. For me, it’s about the Champions League and whether Celtic can compete.

FANS’ FAVOURITE…Reo Hatate knows the Celtic support is right behind him.

“First of all, they need to hold on to the manager, which is really one to watch as he’ll be sought after and courted. You want Ange Postecoglou to stay and he’ll be even more determined to make his mark in Europe. It will be interesting in terms of who comes and goes.”

Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record Podcast, added: “I think Reo Hatate is irreplaceable, in the way Celtic play.

“They won’t have the to get players up to speed as the Champions League still comes around pretty quickly.

“There are certain players who Celtic just can’t do without and they really need to hang on to if they are to match the ambition of the supporters – and that’s to give themselves the best possible chance of competing in the Champions League.

SEEING DOUBLE…Reo Hatate’s image appears on the trackside hoardings after one of his two goals in the 4-1 win over St Johnstone on Christmas Eve.

“Even with the players they have it will be difficult, but they have to give themselves the best chance.

“I know it’s the model, there is a responsibility to pick and choose when the time is right to sell. But we saw how difficult Europe was last season and we’ve seen the development and progression in these players.

“Celtic will need to hold on to their big guns and have them ready to be firing to have the best possible chance.”

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