KYOGO FURUHASHI has already blazed a trail into the hearts of the Celtic support with his rip-roaring start to life in Glasgow - but he could also be the catalyst for more players following in his footsteps too.

Ange Postecoglou has publicly declared his intention to explore the Japanese market when January rolls around, with Celtic still in need of reinforcements despite making 12 summer signings.

“I know the Japanese market very well,” Postecoglou said in August. “I have been looking at it very closely.

“It's a tricky time because traditionally they are still mid-season. There's a lot of players I would love to have a look at closely and bring over but I know it would be almost impossible to get them out because clubs are still playing for the league or cup or (AFC) Champions League competitions.

"Traditionally, it's always been easier to get them out in our winter break, which is their end of season.

"There's a lot of talent there that people haven't realised. It's not to say they are all going to be of Kyogo's level because I was super-confident about him.

"But there is definitely more talent there and it is definitely a market we are looking at closely."

The average age of Celtic’s 12 summer recruits was 24.5, with 19-year-old winger Liel Abada and 34-year-old goalkeeper Joe Hart the significant outliers among those drafted in. As a result of this change in transfer market tact, the three players chosen below are around that average age bracket.

Central midfield is particularly concerning for Celtic with any injury to Callum McGregor likely to cause sincere problems in both style of play and influence while neither Tom Rogic nor David Turnbull have a reputation for their 90-minute durability week in, week out.

With that in mind, The Celtic Way has identified three potential J1 League midfield targets Postecoglou could be looking at making a move for when the January transfer window rolls around.

1. Sergi Samper

Club: Vissel Kobe

Contract expiry: January 31, 2022

Season stats: 2,055 mins played (25 matches); 0 goals (0.01 xG); 5 assists (1.32 xA); 88.2 per cent pass accuracy; 57 through passes (most in J League).

WyScout valuation: £772k

Age: 26

Celtic Way:

The former Barcelona player occupies a deep-lying role for Vissel Kobe and regularly drops to split the centre-backs and pick up the ball. His contract situation is favourable – in the absence of a confirmed extension clause, that is – and his reported salary is less than £1million per year.

On the pitch, Samper plays an average of almost 74 passes per game (90.5 per cent accuracy). Fewer than six of those are long ones meaning he is well-versed in the short, sharp passing Postecoglou favours – and he’d be playing them to a familiar face in Kyogo Furuhashi, whose darting runs and clever movement were something Samper himself said was perfect for him at Kobe, the two ultimately combining with one another “from memory” and with just a look.

Samper even took to Instagram upon Kyogo’s move to Glasgow to bid him farewell and posted a video of their best moments together with his accompanying message declaring Kyogo to be “my Japanese brother”.

The 26-year-old's physicality may have been a concern when trying to break through in Spain but he has developed into a player who is good for more than four interceptions per match and wins just over half of his 14.69 duels a game too.

He is not a regular dribbler (1.51 per match at 58.3 per cent success) or aerially dominant (1.73 aerial duels per game at 50 per cent success) but does consistently seek to get the ball forward (12.09 passes into the final third per game at 78.7 per cent accuracy) and create opportunities for his team-mates (he has 34 shot assists and nine second assists to go with his six actual assists during his 6,143 minutes played in Japan, the equivalent of 68 matches).

2. Kento Misao

Club: Kashima Antlers

Contract expiry: January 31, 2022

Season stats: 2,294 mins played (31 matches); 0 goals (2.3 xG); 1 assist (0.62 xA); 5.53 interceptions per game; 5.3 defensive duels won per game.

WyScout valuation: £1.37m

Age: 25

Celtic Way:

A more defensive-minded option is Kashima Antlers captain Kento Misao. While he enjoys the physical side of the game (more than six defensive duels won per game at the top level of Japanese/Asian football as well as filling in at centre-back) and sniffs out danger well (5.53 interceptions per game at the top level) the 25-year-old is much more than just a spoiler.

He is a consistent passer (85.5 per cent accuracy) and, while he does not get forward in the sense that he carries much of a creative threat, Misao does consistently keep play going in the right direction with more than 10 passes into the final third per game (73.3 per cent accuracy).

In addition, Misao assumed the captaincy at Japan’s most successful club at a fairly young age and is used to winning regularly. The six-cap international has already lifted the AFC Champions League, the Emperor’s Cup and the J1 League title in his career while individually he was nominated for the Asian footballer of the year award in 2018 too.

READ MORE: Ange Postecoglou and the significant Celtic challenge to confront - James Dailey

Perhaps to sum up Misao’s attitude – and shine a light on why he was made captain of a successful club in his early 20s – it is useful to look back to the end of the 2017 season. Just 21 years of age and in his maiden full campaign as a bonafide first-choice in the Kashima midfield, Misao’s side lost the league title race to Kawasaki Frontale by one goal.

When interviewed about the devastating blow afterwards, Misao spoke about “stepping up” in response and despite his relatively tender years said he felt the a personal duty to help the team bounce back quickly.

“When playing in games I just have a real responsibility, I feel that every time,” Misao said back then. What happened next? Well, just a key role in the club’s AFC Champions League triumph and second place in the Asian footballer of the year awards.

3. Reo Hatate

Club: Kawasaki Frontale

Contract expiry: January 31, 2022

Season stats: 2,077 mins played (24 matches); 3 goals (3 xG); 2 assists (2.72 xA); 6.54 recoveries per game; 3.77 dribbles per game (49.4 per cent success).

WyScout valuation: £687k

Age: 23

Celtic Way:

It might have been presumed the final place would go to someone from Yokohama F Marinos – it’s Postecoglou’s former club after all and, as such, a large portion of the players there are familiar with his demands and philosophy – but it seems likely any raid on his old side would be for players in other positions.

Instead, we’ve gone with a slightly left-field choice in an attempt to fill the gap left by Ryan Christie’s departure in Reo Hatate of reigning J1 League champions Kawasaki Frontale.

As his heatmap shows, Hatate used to be a left-back. He’s also played as a winger and a right-back on occasion – indeed, just this season he has featured at left-back, central midfield, right wing and left wing – but has spent more time in midfield over the past couple of years than anywhere else for the slick-passing titlists.

Regardless of where his versatile nature takes him, Hatate enjoys a goal (nine over the past season and a bit, 8.64 xG) and chips in with assists (seven in the same timeframe, 6.77 xA) as well. He also plays a lot of passes – both overall (57.4 per game, 85.2 per cent accuracy) and penetrative (6.68 passes into final third per game and 2.83 passes into penalty area per game) – and is a willing dribbler too (3.9 per game with 53.8 per cent success).

Defensively, while playing in midfield Hatate gets involved in the so-called “dirty side” about as religiously as Christie did (20.65 duels per game), is eager to win the ball back into the bargain (5.38 recoveries per game) and drives the team up the park when he can (1.48 progressive runs per game).

Once described as a player "full of adventure" while starring for the Japan under-23s, Hatate's tenacity and versatility saw him rated as one of the best prospects in the country's university system ahead of his graduation in 2019 and he is already well on his way to establishing himself as an important part of the current top team in the J1 League.