A 23-YEAR-OLD player “full of adventure” with a solid youth pedigree and a trophy-laden start to his senior career behind him sounds like just the ticket for Celtic, doesn't it?

The Celtic Way introduced Reo Hatate as a potential fit for the Hoops midfield way back in September. Since then, reports that the club might be actively looking at the Kawasaki Frontale player have grown.

With that in mind, let's dive a bit deeper on this occasion...

Who is Reo Hatate?

Hatate was well-regarded as a prospect at Juntendo University and starred as Japan won the gold medal at the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taiwan.

After his collegiate gold, Hatate compiled a solid youth international career including reaching the quarter-finals of the 2018 AFC U23 Championships and the final of the 2018 Asian Games with the under-23s as well as making the last four of the Olympics this past summer.

In the summer of 2019 he competed at the prestigious Toulon Tournament as one of just four university players in the 22-strong Japanese squad. The young Blue Samurai side topped a group containing Portugal and a highly-rated England squad that boasted the likes of Reece James, Dwight McNeil and Conor Gallagher in its ranks.

Celtic Way:

Hatate impressed throughout as Japan reached the final of the competition and even bagged a hat-trick in a 6-1 demolition of Chile in the group stages. The showpiece, however, would end in heartbreak for the youngster as he missed the decisive penalty in a 5-4 shootout loss to Brazil.

To his credit, Hatate put that disappointment behind him and has simply gone from strength to strength since joining Kawasaki Frontale upon his graduation from university.

While not always starting in his first full season, his versatility saw him play a part in 31 of Frontale’s 34 J1 League matches and brought with it a league title and Emperor’s Cup double as well as a run to the semis of the J League Cup. Individually, Hatate contributed five goals and five assists during the league season despite various positional changes and inconsistent starting chances.

He followed that impressive debut campaign by becoming a bonafide key player as Frontale defended their J1 League title and lifted the Super Cup. Hamstring issues kept him out of some vital matches – including both legs of the J League Cup quarters and the AFC Champions League last-16 loss against Ulsan Hyundai – but he has still managed eight goal contributions so far.

What position does he play?

Go and get the tin opener, because that question opens up a can of worms.

Hatate is listed by most sources as a left-back but that doesn’t tell the full story. He has, in some ways and despite his impressive progress in the senior ranks, been a victim of his own versatility.

While being able to cover several positions and roles undoubtedly helped him garner more game-time, in his first full senior season especially, it also means he hasn’t really nailed down a speciality yet either.

Even in his youth career, Hatate was routinely shifted about. At the 2018 AFC under-23 Championships and the 2018 Asian Games he mostly played as an attacking midfielder while, at the Olympics this year, he featured primarily at left-back but also saw some time at left wing too.

For Kawasaki, he has spent more time in the centre of the park than anywhere else – 40.5 per cent of his total minutes for the club have come there – but the fact this doesn’t even account for half of his senior career on the pitch reinforces his 'utility man' reputation.

Celtic Way:

Indeed, in his two seasons with the club, Kawasaki have used him at left-back (27.5 per cent of his minutes), on the left wing (9.8 per cent), on the right wing (21 per cent) as well as at right-back (a measly 0.25 per cent) and even at centre forward (1.26 per cent).

While this versatility could be a key acquisition for Celtic in the sense it gives Postecoglou reliable cover for a few different areas wrapped up in one body, at 23 and still relatively early in his career, there is an argument that being afforded time to excel in one particular area would be beneficial.

In Postecoglou’s system, for instance, Hatate could conceivably cover left-back, right-back (despite his lack of game-time there for Kawasaki, he is still predominantly right-footed) and either wing if required. Primarily, though, Hatate could help fill the box-to-box midfield gap left by Ryan Christie’s departure.

What does the data say?

His versatility makes it slightly difficult to nail down relevant metrics without being certain where he will spend most of his time were he to join Celtic. But suffice to say he generally profiles as a player who would bring a good mix of progressive runs and progressive passes in the final third as well as an adept dribbler regardless of the role he is asked to play.

Hatate's good positional awareness is reflected in his interception stats while curiously, despite the time he has spent as a full-back or winger, his crossing isn’t particularly great (just 1.36 per game with 26.1 per cent accuracy).

Celtic Way:

Physically, Hatate stands at around 5ft 7in but is not particularly slight and couples his athletic frame with a suitably relentless attitude.

Indeed, he has around the same overall duel success rate as David Turnbull but competes for a few more per game than the Scotland international. Naturally, the volume of duels Hatate engages in increases when the data is narrowed to the games he has played in central midfield. His success rate, however, stays consistent regardless of those ‘extra’ duels that accompany a shift in-field.

Celtic Way:

He also chimes in with around six recoveries per game and gets forward enough to garner almost four touches in the opposition area per 90 minutes when playing in central midfield - data that bodes well for a team that expects its midfielders to make an impact both on and off the ball.

And it helps that Frontale and Celtic already share a few similarities. Both are successful clubs that are used to winning and their players must embrace the expectation that carries with it. The club culture fit appears to mesh well in that regard.

On the pitch, both sides generally play a 4-3-3 – or a variation thereof – and both spend the majority of matches on the front foot (Kawasaki may not enjoy the 70 per cent domination of possession like the Hoops but both play lots of passes and rarely hit it long).

Celtic Way:

Out of possession, Hatate is used to being in a side that presses high – although, it must be said, not quite as effectively as Celtic under Postecoglou. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one side that consistently tops the Japanese champions in metrics such as PPDA, passes, possession and shots is Yokohama F Marinos: the club Postecoglou departed midway through the season to take the job at Parkhead.

If a move does come to fruition then Hatate could find himself in a team topping those charts - and more - under the Greek-Australian in what would surely be a move, like the Japanese himself has been described, "full of adventure".