REO HATATE started a mere 17 of Celtic’s 50 games last season.

Remarkably, the 26-year-old Japanese midfielder completed only TWO of his overall 21 outings.

It was a frustrating campaign for the skilful playmaker who contributed just three goals – one a penalty-kick – in the champions’ league and Cup-winning crusade.

Hatate was tormented by hamstring and calf problems and his anguish was highlighted in the 2-2 Champions League draw with Atletico Madrid at Parkhead on October 25 when he was forced to limp out of the action after seven minutes.

GROUNDED…Reo Hatate sits this one out.

The alarm bells were ringing as early as the second league game of the term when the fans’ favourite, who made an immediate impact after being signed by Ange Postecoglou in January 2022, was forced off in the 3-1 victory over Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

Hatate had replaced David Turnbull at the interval, but went down in obvious distress and had to be helped off in the 70th minute with Odin Holm taking his place.

He received another setback playing for his country in the Asian Cup at the turn of the year and, at the time, a clearly upset player confessed: “I have been repeatedly injured and not been able to contribute to the team.

“I want to win as many titles as possible and I want to show the Celtic fans a performance that once again makes them think: ‘Celtic need Reo Hatate’.

“During my rehabilitation in preparation for my return, I reviewed everything. This included preparation for competitions, physical strength, training content and diet.

“The most recent injury was my third this season and although it was in a different location, it was a huge shock to have sustained a similar injury over and over again.

CONSOLATION…Brendan Rodgers comforts an emotional Reo Hatate as he comes off the field.

Hatate added: “When I returned to Scotland after the Asian Cup, my heart sank for a while.

“I handled my feelings and emotions as I felt them and I spent a lot of time feeling depressed.

“However, that doesn’t mean I cut corners in my rehab or that I neglected my daily life. I was doing my best in everything, but, to put it simply, I just wasn’t motivated and had no energy.

“It’s one thing not to force yourself to control or maintain your feelings and sometimes just to surrender to the flow.”

Thankfully, Hatate did return to action as the season neared its climax and played in all five of the games after the league split, completing two encounters – the 2-1 win over Dundee at Dens Park and the 5-0 triumph over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park when Celtic sealed their third successive crown and their twelfth in 13 years.

However, there was a rebuke for the industrious middle-of-the-park performer from boss Brendan Rodgers after the crucial 2-1 victory over Philippe Clement’s Ibrox side at Parkhead on May 11.

MAKE MINE A DOUBLE…a beaming Reo Hatate holds aloft the Scottish Cup to add to the Premiership title after the triumph over Ibrox opposition at Hampden on May 25.

Hatate was hooked for his compatriot 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.”

At one stage during the campaign, former Hoops striker Chris Sutton observed Hatate was “not the same player” who had performed so eye-catchingly the previous year.

We all know what a fully-functioning Hatate, who signed a five-year extension in September, has to offer Celtic.

With a new season on the horizon, the question is: Will the real Reo Hatate please stand up?


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