Last season’s Champions League group stage was a fairly punishing one for Celtic and Kyogo Furuhashi.
The Japanese forward has been a complete revelation ever since making the switch from Vissel Kobe in the summer of 2021.
58 goals have arrived in the two years since, despite the Celtic forward missing around six months of action through various injuries. Had he not encountered those, he would be a whole lot closer to the 100 mark.
Five of Furuhashi‘s goals have arrived in Europe. Yet all of those have been in the Europa League. He’s still to net at the top table of European football.
He featured in all six of our group-stage matches last season, playing a total of 357 minutes. Some big chances arrived in that time, and he didn’t seem to have the same composure as in domestic matches.
So there’s a big Kyogo Furuhashi question that lingers ahead of a fresh Champions League campaign: can he be our talisman at the very top level?
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This writer’s humble prediction is that Furuhashi will announce himself on the big stage over the next six matches. I’m not predicting him rivaling Erling Haaland for the Golden Boot or anything, but I think he’ll answer any lingering questions.
Let’s not forget that people were questioning his ability to score in matches against Rangers at the start of the year. Since then, he has netted six in as many matches.
The story could be very similar in Europe. Get one and the floodgates might open. His manager Brendan Rodgers certainly has no worries about the forward’s suitability at the top level, as he answered a question relating to Henrik Larsson.
“It’s about opportunity because there’s no doubt he can score goals at this level,” he told The Herald. “He’s got the speed and the movement and the finishing. These are his moments.
“What made Henrik unique was his longevity at Celtic. In my time we had Moussa [Dembele], who was fantastic and Griff [Leigh Griffiths] was terrific. Henrik was over a sustained period, and that made him really stand out.
“The comparisons, I think, come with the movement and the levels of finishing. Kyogo is his own player. Henrik was a special player for Celtic and so is Kyogo. It will be longevity that will decide where he compares. It’s also about creating those moments like Henrik did.”
Looking back at last season’s Champions League games, the positive is that Furuhashi got chances in every match he started. He is likely to get chances in Rotterdam. Let’s hope he can stick at least one of them into the back of the net.