After sealing the title at Tynecastle last Sunday, the Celtic squad all returned to Parkhead for a heroes welcome. All the players, the manager and the backroom staff got involved bar one. Reo Hatate.
The Japanese star was the only Celtic player not to go back and celebrate with the fans and that led to fans wondering what was going on with the dynamic midfielder.
At the PFA Player of the Year nomination press conference, Hatate moved quickly to put any fans fears to rest.
Hatate joked [The Herald], “Well, you can leave me alone, maybe? It’s not a big deal.
“People are reading too much into it. I had my personal things so I had to be away from the team. But that’s all, nothing else.
“I wasn’t at the Brighton game – I watched it on the television in my house.
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“The main thing is that I play for Celtic. This is where I am, and I am focusing on the rest of the games.”
Hatate went on to speak about next season’s Champions League campaign and the prospect of facing some of Europe’s big guns again. The Celtic midfielder was very frank and honest about how we can progress from the group stages and about his own performances in Europe’s top competition.
The Celtic midfielder continued, “That would be a great thing for my career to try to impress the other teams.
“But then at the same time they are tough games in the Champions League so I don’t think I can play [well] in every game. There will be good and bad of course. All I can do is prepare and try and do my best.
“After the six games in the Champions League group, personally I think the other teams had better qualities in terms of technique and they finish when they get chances to score. But at the same time, we kept the ball well.
“That we think we can do at the same level so if we can improve our technique and if we can finish better than this season then I think we can compete next season.”
His own personal confession that he may not play well in every game gives a fascinating insight into the midfielder’s mindset. Honest enough to know that he may not perform to fans’ expectations, but has a determination that no matter what, he will always give his best for the team.
As Hatate eluded to, the difference between us qualifying this year was just fine margins in front of goal and ‘what if’s’.
An impressive performance from the midfielder against Real Madrid in the opening group game was followed up with a goal in the 1-1 away draw with Shakhtar Donetsk.
Hatate will be pivotal if Celtic are to progress from the group stages next season. Whether it be to the last 16 or the Europa League, the Japanese midfielder has already proven that he has what we need to mix it with the big guns.