As far as opening salvos go, the signing of Kyogo Furuhashi is an undoubtedly exciting turn of direction for Celtic.
Considering the stretched sources of wherewithal just to add to the scorching disappointment of Rangers ending the Hoops’ 10 in a row ambition with ease last season, landing the versatile player from Vissel Kobe on a four-year deal appears to represent fine business.
Although it was likely that new Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou had Furuhashi top of his shortlist as he races against time to remodel both personnel and recharge low morale, the signing of the 26-year-old – with a ringing endorsement from no less than Kobe captain Andres Iniesta – is still understandably imbuing brassed-off Parkhead patrons with positive vibes.
The heat over Postecoglou’s shock appointment as Neil Lennon’s successor having subsided, there is, unfortunately, no time to waste. Unkind as it may be in terms of scheduling, but Celtic’s biggest game of the season takes place in midweek when FC Midtjylland arrive in Glasgow for the first leg of the second round Champions League qualifier.
Postecoglou will obviously be hoping that what little period he has had with the squad, from a pre-season camp in Wales – no rubber stamping of reckless jaunts to Dubai for the Aussie, unlike his predecessor – is enough for Celts to cope with the Danish outfit.
It is unlikely Furuhashi will be available on Tuesday, where Celtic can at least have the support of 9,000 fans due to ongoing Covid restrictions – but the report card from Japanese sources is particularly encouraging.
Not only did the Japan international net 15 goals in 21 outings in 2020-21 but he has been described as an “intelligent” operator, suited to various systems up front or on the wing.
Fast and super fit, too, in keeping with the vigorous new dynamic Postecoglou is trying to establish in Glasgow’s east end. The Hoops chief has also identified the need for better quality and pace at wing-back, which should complement last season’s J League top scorer.
Comparisons with compatriot and one-time Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura are inevitable – and the hope from Celtic fans is that Furuhashi’s impact will be similarly epic. Indeed, Nakamura, incidentally still performing in his homeland at the age of 43, was described as “the greatest player I ever worked with, including Kenny Dalglish”, according to ex-manager Gordon Strachan.
A slightly different outcome to Celtic’s other foray into the Japanese market… remember Koki Mizuno? Strachan has probably forgotten all about the lightweight midfielder who made only 11 appearances in two and a half years, having failed to settle in Scotland.
But still. Furuhashi, Celtic’s fourth new senior face along with Liam Shaw, Osaze Urhoghode and Liel Abada, can potentially be the man to galvanise. And if the deal for Carl Starfelt goes through shortly it would be another piece of good business to boost Euro squad numbers, although the Swedish defender, currently with Rubin Kazan, may have to quarantine.
In theory, a player who made his name initially with Gothenburg could be an ideal, affordable, replacement for Brentford-bound Kristoffer Ajer.
Speaking of Brentford, Celts’ dangerous Euro opponents, who finished second in the Danish Superliga last term, have strong links with the west Londoners. Midtjylland, like the Bees, are owned by multi-millionaire and Oxford Physics graduate Matthew Benham. Chairman Rasmus Ankersen also doubles up as Brentford’s director of football.
On the field, Celtic will have to cope with Denmark international and tough guy Henrik Dalsgaard who recently returned home from London. Moreover, ex-Celt Erik Sviatchenko is set to face his old club.
For Postecoglou, at least he will be facing an opposite number also new to the job. Bo Henriksen only took over at the ‘Ulvene’ (Wolves) in May.
Tuesday apart, additional horse trading is coming along the Parkhead track - paramount for a club in dire need to freshen up and rejuvenate throughout.
With Scott Brown now at Aberdeen, if Postecoglou can settle his men reasonably quickly then he will have made as encouraging a start as could be expected.
Crucially, too, you would also have to be particularly naïve to the fundamental problems at Celtic during this crossover stage to blame the manager if things happen to go awry against Midtjylland.