3 J-League talents Ange Postecoglou could look at bringing to Celtic

By Euan Davidson

June 1, 2021

Now, before you say anything: we’ve learned not to expect anything imminent from Celtic, including the appointment of Ange Postecoglou.

After all, we were convinced Eddie Howe would be the next Celtic boss. Look at how that turned out? Is it too far to suggest Howe should apologise to journalists individually for making us look daft? Probably, yes. It wouldn’t go amiss, though, so if you know him personally tell him we’re waiting for his call.

So, yes: this is predicated on Ange Postecoglou rumours coming to fruition. If he does take the job, then it’s natural to assume he might be looking not to only bolster his own reputation, but that of the league he inhabits. After all, how many of us are cynical about the leap in standards between Japan’s top-flight, and ours? However justified that may be?

It’d be quite the PR boost for Postecoglou’s prior achievements if he and some top talents from Japan were able to make an impact here. And let’s be honest, do we know how good a league it is? Not long ago, we were talking up the Scottish Premiership against Super League plans and criticism from down south. It’d be a bit hypocritical to look at the J-League in the same way others do to us.

So, with that pontification over, let’s have a look at three talents from the J-League who could help Celtic out in key positions.

Kyogo Furuhashi of Vissel Kobe / (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)

Kyogo Furuhashi – a bona fide J-League Star

One of the more exciting talents in the J-League, Vissel Kobe’s Kyogo Furuhashi is a left-footed technician, who plays on the left of Kobe’s attack. With an excellent first-touch and a fierce shot, the former FC Gifu man has 9 goals and one assist in 17 J-League outings this season [Transfermarkt], playing alongside Barcelona legend Andrés Iniesta.

This season is no fluke, either. Furuhashi managed a whopping 17 goal involvements in 30 games last season, earning himself 3 caps for Japan’s national team. If you thought a step up to international level would be an issue, relax: he’s scored twice in those 3 outings.

Capable of playing anywhere in a front free, or even further back across any midfield position, Furuhashi’s versatility is commendable. It’s as a left-winger where he’s done most of the damage, though. In total, for Vissel Kobe, Furuhashi has hit 42 goals and 17 assists in 106 competitive matches so far.

Those are Scott Sinclair-esque numbers. If bringing back Mohamed Elyounoussi is beyond the realms of possibility, Furuhashi would be a productive replacement. Watching his goals in the J-League, there seems little doubt his technical abilities and goal-scoring nous could adapt to European football.

Admittedly, he won’t have Iniesta to play off, but still.

Koki Machida (R) is an Asian Champions League winner / (Photo by Hiroki Watanabe/Getty Images)

Koki Machida – solving a problem area for Celtic

Celtic need centre-backs. So having one that’s won the AFC Champions League, J-League and Japanese Super Cup by the age of 23 is hardly a bad idea.

Koki Machida, at his tender age, has already established himself to very decent acclaim in Japan’s top tier. A fixture at youth level for Japan’s national teams, the centre-back, who’s comfortable on either side, has chipped in with 4 goals and an assist this season.

Ok, it’s not necessarily what you look for first in your defenders, but it’s no bad thing. Left-footed and standing at 6’2″, Machida carries the ball well. But he’s also adept at defending set-pieces, and features in one of the sterner defences in the J-League.

Already highly decorated, Machida seems a good bet for a call-up soon. He’s played and won at the highest level in Asian competition. At the same age as Kristoffer Ajer, he’s won the Asian equivalent of the Champions League. Scoff all you want, but he’s surely good value for a move to Europe before too long.

Kaoru Mitoma of Kawasaki Frontale / (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

Kaoru Mitoma – already a J-League winner

One winger not enough for you? Alright, try Kawasaki Frontale speeders Kaoru Mitoma. Already this season, in just 20 games, he’s scored 8 and set up 3. In 2020, 13 was the lucky number, with Mitoma boasting the same number of goals and assists [Transfermarkt].

Numbers alone don’t do him justice. Watching his game, he absolutely adores taking players on. Loves it. Nutmegs, cut-backs, feints; Mitoma doesn’t seem happy until he’s truly embarrassed his opposite man. Whether the more robust defences of the Scottish Premiership will allow him to do all that is another issue. But the guy is an absolute entertainer, and at 24, he’s coming into the best years of his career.

Having won a double with last season’s J-League winners Kawasaki Frontale, the fleet-footed winger’s contract ends at the start of 2022. That puts Celtic, if they were interested, in a fantastic position to pick him up cheaply. While he might not necessarily walk straight into the Bhoys’ first team, he’s been continually producing at a high level.

With electric pace and a tendency to win fouls, Mitoma habitually gets to the byline in order to stretch out defences. That’s not a style we’ve seen too much of in recent years, and he’d be a gift for any striker that lines up for the Bhoys next season.

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