Celtic head coach Ange Postecoglou believes "a lot of missed chances" were to blame for his side's ill-fated Champions League season. 

After losing 2-0 to RB Leipzig at home on Tuesday, the reigning Scottish Champions will not be able to progress beyond the group stage. 

Even their hopes of dropping into the Europa League look slim, needing four points from their games against Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Madrid, as well as favours from elsewhere.

Reflecting on a disappointing display from his side, Postecoglou said: "I thought we showed all the effort and endeavour to try to win a game of football.

"But as we have found at this level, if you don’t take your chances it’s very hard to convert all of that into a result.

"I’m trying to tell us to play in a certain way to be successful, but we know at this level that if you don't take your opportunities then it's going to hurt you at some stage.

"It's been the story of our campaign so far – a lot of missed chances."

 

Celtic's loss equalled the longest run of home defeats by a team in the competition, previously set by Monaco between May 2017 and December 2018 with seven.

But Postecoglou hopes the experience, while disappointing, will benefit his side in the long term.

"We have just got to keep going. Irrespective of whether we continue or not, we have two more Champions League games that we want to keep using as a platform to improve as a football team and improve our players," he said. 

"The more they have exposure at this level, I think the better equipped we will be at this level."

Postecoglou and his side will look to get something from their game against Shakhtar on October 25, which follows domestic fixtures with Hibernian, Motherwell and Hearts.

Celtic must believe they belong at the top level of European football if they are to salvage their Champions League campaign, so says Ange Postecoglou.

The Hoops sit bottom of Group F, having taken just one point from their opening three games after losing 3-1 to RB Leipzig on Wednesday.

Celtic came out strong but went in at half-time 1-0 down courtesy of Christopher Nkunku. Despite Jota grabbing an early equaliser in the second half, a double from Andre Silva secured the three points for the Bundesliga side.

Postecoglou thinks Celtic must show more belief in their own ability, citing their mentality will change with more experience.

He told BT Sport: "A lot of it is experience at this level. Guys believing they belong, guys believing they can achieve at this level. It's not easy to translate that to people when they're out there. There's a lesson there for us tonight.

"We know when we're aggressive and play our football, we can cause anyone problems. When we're not, it's going to be very hard for us to be successful. 

"For us to get over this hump of being a good side and getting results we have to have a stronger belief and mentality, but that's not easy, it comes with experience.

"If you play for survival that's all you'll ever get, you never get anywhere."

Leipzig's second goal came after Joe Hart made a mistake while trying to play the ball out from the back, and the former England goalkeeper knows his error was a costly one.

"They were pressing with three... I decided to pass to Greg [Taylor] and I missed. It's high-level football, something I love playing, and when you make a mistake you get punished," Hart told BT Sport.

"Sometimes it's going to hurt us but ultimately we proved we could get through the press and gave ourselves some good opportunities to score goals.

"We've got two big games at home in a row. If we play to our potential, we believe that we can win them and then it will look different."

Celtic take on St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership on October 8, before Leipzig travel to Glasgow for the reverse fixture in Group F three days later.

Manchester United have already conceded 14 goals in seven Premier League games this season.

United boss Erik ten Hag is weighing up his goalkeeping options, having stuck with long-term number one David de Gea since taking over.

Reports have emerged that United and De Gea are set for talks on his future, with the 31-year-old's deal to expire in 2023.

TOP STORY – MAN UTD EYE COSTA AS DE GEA REPLACEMENT

Manchester United's goalkeeper situation is in flux, with the club interested in Porto custodian Diogo Costa, according to Metro.

United have sent scouts to watch the 23-year-old goalkeeper, who has seven caps for Portugal.

The Red Devils are looking for De Gea's successor, with the Spaniard seemingly not suiting Ten Hag's possession-based style.

United also have 25-year-old England international Dean Henderson out on loan at Nottingham Forest.

ROUND-UP

– O Jogo claims former Olympiacos manager Pedro Martins could be the latest Portuguese coach to take over at Wolves, following Bruno Lage's dismissal on Sunday. The Telegraph reports that under-fire Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui may be considered and Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has also been discussed.

Juventus and Real Madrid will rival Liverpool in the race to sign Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans from Leicester City, claims Calciomercato.

– LaLiga pair Sevilla and Valencia are both interested in Manchester United forward Anthony Martial, reports Todofichajes.

Tottenham and Juventus target Nicolo Zaniolo is set to pen a new deal with Roma, re-committing on a €4million per-year deal until 2027, according to Calciomercato.

– Everton's Venezuela international striker Salomon Rondon has interest from UAE club Sharjah FC but is likely to stay with the Toffees, reports Liverpool Echo.

Ange Postecoglou criticised Celtic's "work ethic" as the Scottish Premiership champions suffered a first league defeat in 364 days at St Mirren on Sunday.

Mark O'Hara headed the Paisley side ahead in the first half, before Jonah Ayunga added a second after the break to inflict a first defeat on Celtic since September 19 last year.

The loss was just Celtic's second in their past 27 visits to St Mirren, and Postecoglou accepted his side were well off their usual standards. 

"We just weren't aggressive both in action and in thought," he said. "We kind of tried to ease our way into a game of football and you just can't do that. You've got to be at it from the start and we weren't. 

"You don't put it down to one of those days; it's a disappointing day. We pride ourselves on having certain standards and we didn't reach those. And football will always teach you that lesson.

"What has got us to this point over the past 15 or 16 months is having a certain work ethic and certain levels of performance and belief. We didn't reach any of those. We've got to take the hits when they come and we've just got to get back up and go again.

"We've done that before as a team over the past 15 or 16 months. It's a sore one, it's one that we've got to use as the fuel we need next to get going again.

"We were nowhere near the levels we want to be. Credit to St Mirren. They worked really hard and were really committed to their game plan. They made it hard for us, but we never hit the levels we need to play our football. It's about dusting ourselves off and getting going again."

Celtic have a two-point lead over bitter rivals Rangers at the Scottish Premiership summit ahead of the international break.

Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou declared Celtic will be "hard to stop" if they maintain their current form after watching the Bhoys tear Rangers apart in a 4-0 Old Firm derby success.

A Liel Abada brace, as well as goals from Jota and David Turnbull, moved the scintillating Scottish Premiership champions five points clear of their historic rivals in the early-season table on Saturday.

Celtic are now unbeaten in 38 league games, and have scored 25 goals in their opening six matches of the 2022-23 campaign.

Speaking to the BBC after the win, Postecoglou said: "We have been in excellent form and I'm really proud of the players.

"It was a big game today, we knew that, a big occasion against a really good team, and I thought the boys were outstanding from start to finish."

Asked about the importance of the Hoops' commanding lead over Rangers in the standings, the Australian said: "What's more important to me is how we're playing, every week we've got a little bit better, and that's a good indicator. 

"That's a better indicator. You can win games in many ways and grind things out, but our form's been outstanding.

"If we can keep going like that, we're going to be hard to stop."

Postecoglou's counterpart Giovanni van Bronckhorst, meanwhile, was left deflated by a series of defensive errors as he pledged the Gers will not make the same mistakes in the future.

"You know the start you have is very important in how the game will develop," he said. "We knew the threat they had with quick throw-ins and free-kicks.

"We were exposed twice, which gave two goals away. For me, that's very disappointing. We knew they were going to [restart quickly] and still we weren't prepared enough.

"Everyone needs to reflect in what they did well and what they did wrong, same for me.

"There are still a lot of games to be played, plus three games against Celtic.

"We have to move on, get stronger and make sure the moments we had here never happen again, no matter who we play."

Liel Abada's first-half double laid the bedrock for a rousing Celtic victory, as they claimed the Old Firm bragging rights with a 4-0 thrashing of Rangers.

Abada was in superb form as he helped fire the hosts to a sixth successive victory of the Scottish Premiership season, with Jota and David Turnbull also on the scoresheet at Celtic Park.

The win moved Ange Postecoglou's side five points clear at the top ahead of their Champions League meeting with Real Madrid next week.

For Giovanni van Bronckhorst's visitors however, it laid bare the gulf in quality, and checks the Gers' momentum before their midweek trip to Ajax.

Celtic had to recover from an early blow when Kyogo Furuhashi, the league's top scorer, was forced off clutching his shoulder following a collision with John Lundstram.

Yet those early fears turned to joy when Celtic seized the first chance of the game – Abada turning Matt O'Riley's cross in off Jon McLaughlin's palm with a lunging volley.

O'Riley provided again for the Bhoys to double the lead, with a superb ball for Jota, who turned home sharply, and Celtic's fans were in dreamland when Abada doubled his tally with a first-touch finish from six yards out.

With a three-goal deficit to overturn after the break, Rangers had to make some kind of change, with Scott Wright thrown on for Glen Kamara, but that gamble failed to stem the Celtic onslaught.

Celtic seldom let their foot off the pedal, and when McLaughlin played a short goal-kick straight to Turnbull, an easy finish sealed the deal for the hosts in emphatic, dominant fashion.

What does it mean? Celtic cement frontrunner status

Twenty-five goals in the space of six league games is not just an impressive haul, it is positively confirmatory for Celtic's title hopes, even at this early stage.

Even before their free-scoring performance in the derby, they had not netted as many goals as they had by this stage of any previous SPL season. They look impossible to stop.

Bhoys buck bad starts

The first league Old Firm derby of a season has been won by Rangers in both of the last two campaigns. Before that, Celtic had won four in a row – and now they have shaken off the slow form that has cost them the past two years.

Van Bronckhorst makes unwanted history

Rangers are yet to win an Old Firm league derby under the Dutchman. It makes him the fourth such man to fail to register a win in his first four encounters, after William Wilton in 1892, William Waddell in 1971 and Graeme Murty in 2018.

What's next?

Both teams enter the Champions League group stages against two European heavyweights, with Celtic welcoming Madrid and Rangers travelling to Ajax.

Ange Postecoglou revealed he had achieved a "dream" that had been his "lifelong obsession" after overseeing Celtic's Scottish Premiership title triumph.

Celtic needed only a point on Wednesday to clinch top spot ahead of rivals and reigning champions Rangers, and they got exactly that thanks to a 1-1 draw at Dundee United.

It completes a stunning turnaround under Postecoglou, who arrived at the start of this season after Celtic had finished the last campaign 25 points off the pace.

The Bhoys recovered from early setbacks, though, and were deserving champions with a game to spare.

"It's been a hell of a season," Postecoglou told BBC Sport. "Our starting point was a fair way back, and the way this group of players and staff has risen to the challenge – I couldn't be more proud.

"It's fairly overwhelming. It's taken every ounce of me to get us where we are, and when you get to the finish line, you just want to collapse.

"We've been focused all season, not getting distracted by anything. The players were really good at dealing with what was in front of them – and that's not easy to do.

"The dream was always to manage a famous club and try to make an impact. When something is almost a lifelong obsession and you finally get there, it's hard to put into words.

"It almost feels like two seasons in one. We've jammed in a rebuilding season and a season to win. We had a lot of work to do, and with the support of everyone at the club, we got there."

Celtic's Carl Starfelt put through his own net deep into extra-time as Rangers came from behind to beat their Old Firm rivals 2-1 in a frantic Scottish Cup semi-final.

Greg Taylor fired a low finish beyond Jon McLaughlin shortly after the hour to hand Celtic the lead, before substitute Scott Arfield bent home a brilliant leveller to force additional time.

With a penalty shoot-out on the horizon, Starfelt deflected Calvin Bassey's left-wing cross past Joe Hart to send Rangers to their 53rd Scottish Cup final, where Hearts lie in wait after overcoming Hibernian on Saturday. 

A boisterous atmosphere gave way to a frantic opening at Hampden Park, with Ryan Kent firing over under pressure and Jota heading onto the roof of the net at the other end.

John Lundstram curled against the post as Rangers enjoyed the better of the first half, but their threat faded somewhat after Aaron Ramsey was injured shortly before the break.

Ange Postecoglou's side improved after half time and took the lead after 63 minutes, Taylor spinning on Callum McGregor's inventive shot free-kick before firing into the bottom-right corner.

The Hoops went close to a quickfire second five minutes later when Cameron Carter-Vickers crashed a left-footed shot against the crossbar from a corner.

They were made to pay for that missed opportunity after 78 minutes with Arfield latching onto Kemar Roofe's heavy touch to curl home just four minutes after coming on.

Celtic somehow survived Rangers twice hitting the woodwork in the 110th minute, James Tavernier smashing off the near post and Fashion Sakala diverting the rebound onto the top of the bar.

But Rangers found time for a winner as Bassey's left-wing cutback was diverted into his own net by Starfelt under pressure from Sakala, ending Celtic's treble hopes and booking Rangers' cup final spot.

What does it mean? Rangers continue bid to end cup draught

Rangers have not lifted either of Scotland's two domestic cups since winning the Scottish League Cup in 2011, and Celtic have won the Scottish Cup on six occasions since the Ibrox outfit last did so in 2009.

Their extra-time win means they will appear in May's showpiece event for the 53rd time, where they will look to lift their first domestic cup in over a decade.

Celtic's treble hopes in tatters

Meanwhile, Celtic went into this game looking to keep their hopes of a fifth domestic treble in six seasons alive, after winning the Scottish League Cup in December and establishing a six-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership. 

Giovanni van Bronckhorst's men will be delighted with ending the Hoops' dreams of another domestic clean sweep, and could yet win two trophies themselves as they remain in the hunt for the Europa League.

Gers end Postecoglou's derby run

Postecoglou's team looked set for a third successive Old Firm derby win when Taylor fired home the opener, but a stunning Rangers turnaround denied Celtic that feat, and means the Glasgow giants have won two derbies apiece in all competitions this season.

What's next?

Celtic continue their bid to regain the Scottish title at Ross County next Sunday, with Rangers travelling to Motherwell on the same day, looking to capitalise on any slip-up from the leaders.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou confirmed that a member of his coaching staff was hit by a missile during the Old Firm derby.

The Hoops came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory at Ibrox and extended their lead over their rivals Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership to six points with just six games remaining.

Aaron Ramsey had given Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side the lead early on, only for Tomas Rogic and Cameron Carter-Vickers to strike back for Celtic before the break.

However, the match was marred by glass bottles being thrown onto the pitch, with the game being delayed early in the second half when parts of a broken bottle were found in the Celtic penalty area.

In a separate incident, a member of Celtic's staff was also struck by an object thrown from the crowd. 

"Yeah, he was [hit by a missile], on the way in. I think he is okay. He had a couple of stitches," Postecoglou told reporters when asked if the staff member had indeed been struck by a missile.

"It is disappointing because this is a game that gets beamed around the world and it stands on its own.

"You had two teams going at it in first and second spot and you don't need a couple of idiots spoiling it."

Cameron Carter-Vickers celebrated a "massive" victory for Celtic as his goal ultimately proved the winner in Sunday's derby clash with Rangers.

Celtic took the Old Firm bragging rights back across Glasgow as they secured a 2-1 win at Ibrox.

Rangers' start could hardly have been better, with Aaron Ramsey scoring inside the opening three minutes, yet Tomas Rogic swiftly hit back for the visitors.

That was the first time since December 2002 that both teams had scored inside the opening 10 minutes of an Old Firm derby, and the first half ended in similarly frantic fashion when Carter-Vickers lashed in after a goalmouth scramble.

Celtic ultimately held on without too much trouble, despite glass bottles being thrown onto the pitch at half-time, as Ange Postecoglou's team moved six points clear of their city rivals at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

"A massive win for us, not many games left so every three points are massively important," defender Carter-Vickers told Sky Sports.

"All season we've shown that character. Sometimes it is difficult coming to a stadium like this, and it takes a bit of time to adjust.

"It was difficult to concede in the first five minutes, but after that we played well.

"My goal was probably a bit lucky. It was difficult, they were pushing men forward, and we had to defend as a unit. I thought we stood up to it well today."

Postecoglou echoed Carter-Vickers' sentiment, telling BBC Scotland: "It was an enormous effort. It was a proper derby.

"We didn't get off to the greatest of starts and the crowd was up and for us and this group of players to turn it around in that fashion, and the resilience this group have shown. 

"I'm super proud of the players. Everyone knows this isn't an easy place to come to, they're a good side and they're undefeated here this year and knowing the consequences and the significance of three points to the league today it was always going to be a battle for us.

"There were going to be times we had to roll our sleeves up. But like I said after not getting off to the greatest of starts, to go and win the game is a testament to the character of the players."

That was only a second domestic defeat Rangers have suffered under Giovanni van Bronckhorst, but both of them have been in derby games.

Ange Postecoglou told his Celtic players not to feel sorry for themselves after they were shocked by Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League.

The Scottish Premiership leaders lost 3-1 at Celtic Park on Thursday in the first leg of their play-off tie against the champions of Norway.

Runar Espejord scored after just five minutes and 58 seconds to stun a packed home crowd in Glasgow, with Amahl Pellegrino making it 2-0 early in the second half from close range.

Daizen Maeda headed in a lifeline for Celtic only for Hugo Vetlesen's deflected strike to beat Joe Hart barely two minutes later and put Bodo/Glimt in control of the tie.

Yet Postecoglou, who saw his side manage only six shots on target despite nearly 63 per cent of the ball, does not believe a comeback is beyond Celtic's means.

 

"Obviously it's not the outcome we wanted and from our perspective, we weren't able to reach the levels we were hoping to," he said, as per the club's website.

"We controlled the game for the most part, but obviously they got their goals and they were pretty clinical in the way they counter-attacked against us, and we lacked a little bit of quality in the front third ourselves, although we did have our chances, so we paid that price.

"It was disappointing because we got ourselves back into the game, and we were controlling the game at that time – I think they probably had two chances in the second half.

"The second one's deflected and gone in, but you've got to take those hits and from our perspective, it's about making sure we dust ourselves off and go again tomorrow.

"You could sit here and feel sorry for yourself, or realise that there's still another game to go, and we can turn it around. That's the reality of it."

The return leg takes place next Thursday.

Daizen Maeda handed Celtic a Europa Conference League lifeline after his goal gave the hosts something to cling to in a dismal 3-1 first-leg defeat against Bodo/Glimt in the play-offs.

Goals from Runar Espejord, Amahl Pellegrino and Hugo Vetlesen left the Scottish Premiership leaders reeling, as Kjetil Knutsen's side seized the advantage in Glasgow.

On the back of their Europa League exit last December, Ange Postecoglou's hosts headed into the inaugural edition of UEFA's newest competition looking to deliver a positive result.

Yet they were rattled early on by the Eliteserien champions, who struck inside the first six minutes when Espejord turned Joe Hart the wrong way with a low close-range strike.

Celtic's subsequent struggle to click in the final third left them labouring for a response before the break, and an arguably lenient booking for a Pellegrino foul further frustrated their players.

The winger wasted little time after the restart to make the most of a potential escape, too, when he latched onto Espejord's flick to tuck another close-range finish into the net.

The arrival of Reo Hatate just beyond the hour mark saw Postecoglou's side find a fresh burst of life, and when Maeda cut the gap with a fine header, it looked like they had a chance to rally.

But the visitors promptly responded through Vetlesen's deflected 20-yard strike to put any comeback to bed, taking a crucial upper hand into next week's return fixture as they look to push on to the last 16.

 

What does it mean? Celtic at risk of successive knockout blows

Having dropped into the third tier of European football after a third-place Europa League group-stage finish, the Bhoys welcomed their visitors with the hope of a statement result in response.

Yet with nothing to show for their lacklustre efforts on a cold February night in Glasgow, they now find themselves facing the prospect of back-to-back European eliminations.

Despite their domestic dominance this term, Postecoglou's side have failed to fully convince in two competitions now – and unless they muster a major response, they face another immediate exit.

Hosts pay for wasted opportunity

With 57 clocked up this term across 26 games in the Scottish Premiership, Celtic have not typically wanted for goals.

But with just six shots on target from 15 attempts and just 1.3 expected goals, they were made to suffer for their lack of clarity in front of the net against their Norwegian rivals.

Bodo/Glimt display ruthless edge

Having now gone 10 European games without defeat, Bodo continue to prove themselves among the neutral's favourites following another fine display.

If not as flamboyantly smash-and-grab as their 6-1 blowout against Roma, their three-goal haul nevertheless thrilled their supporters – and with just four shots on target all game, they showed a clear ruthless edge to seize the advantage.

What's next?

Celtic return to domestic action in the Scottish Premiership, welcoming Dundee to Celtic Park, while Bodo/Glimt will bide their time for the reverse last-16 clash back home in Norway next week.

Rangers gave the Old Firm Derby away to Celtic, but Giovanni van Bronckhorst does not think it will be decisive in the Scottish Premiership title race. 

Celtic took the lead through Reo Hatate inside five minutes at an electric Parkhead on Wednesday and completely controlled the clash between the top two during the opening period. 

Hatate rifled in a brilliant second and two minutes later crossed for Liel Abada to make it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time. 

Rangers improved after the restart but were unable to stop their 21-game unbeaten run coming to an end, with Celtic replacing them at the Premiership summit and going a point clear. 

"It seemed like it was the first Old Firm game we'd played. We know what the Old Firm will bring, what we have to do … but it seemed like we weren't ready for it," Van Bronckhorst told Sky Sports. 

"You see the way we gave the goals away. It's the sharpness, I cannot say otherwise. It's not going with your man, not being ready for the battles. I think it was unbelievable the first half I saw. 

"I think our Old Firm game started in the second half. We were much better, much more aggressive and we played the second half really well. But in the first half we gave the game away. 

"It wasn't something I expected. When I see the trainings we had, the focus we had before the game, but when the whistle blew, we were just waiting for the goal to be scored. We were too naive and we deserved to be down 3-0 with the way we played. 

"We had an honest conversation in the locker room after the game.  

"We're not the first Rangers team to lose. I lost very big here as a player, but we eventually became champions that year. Of course, we wanted to win this game, but these games don't decide the championship. We still have many games to play and we have to be ready." 

The victory was Ange Postecoglou's first since taking charge of Celtic and ended a six-game winless run against Rangers in the league. 

The Australian was thoroughly impressed with how his team outplayed Rangers and believes there is still plenty more to come from the Bhoys. 

"Our first 45 minutes were outstanding; three great goals," Postecoglou told the BBC. 

"Our football was pretty special and their keeper pulled off some great saves. In the second half, we had to defend a bit more but we've been a team that can do that. It shows another layer. We knew the consequences, what it meant to our supporters, and we stood up. 

"Considering the context of the game and the opposition, I thought our football was outstanding. It's the kind of football team we want to be. It doesn't mean you disrespect or dismiss the opposition. We are still developing, but we want to take it to the opposition, and if we do that, we can take it to any opposition. 

"We've still got key players missing, very influential players. Some are just in the door. Reo Hatate and Matt O'Riley have played fewer than five games. Our target was not top spot, our target is to win things, and if we're going to win things, we have to keep improving." 

If Kyogo Furuhashi is any indication, Celtic should be looking to Japan for more players, right?

Former Yokohama F.Marinos boss Ange Postecoglou used his J1 League insight to lure the previously unheralded Kyogo to Parkhead and what a signing it has proven to be – the Japan international has taken Glasgow by storm with 14 goals in all competitions.

Now, Celtic manager Postecoglou is reportedly preparing another raid on Japan's top flight, including his former club, to help bolster his title-chasing side in the January transfer window.

F.Marinos star and joint Golden Boot winner Daizen Maeda, Kawasaki Frontale utility Reo Hatate and Gamba Osaka's Yosuke Ideguchi are believed to be all closing in on moves to Celtic as the Bhoys' Japanese contingent grows.

With speculation mounting, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind the trio, using Opta data.

 

Daizen Maeda, Yokohama F.Marinos

Postecoglou leaned on his experiences as a rival coach to prise Kyogo from Andres Iniesta's Vissel Kobe at the start of the season, but it is a completely different matter regarding Maeda, who was signed by the Australian coach, initially on loan in 2020.

Following a difficult loan spell in Portugal via Maritimo, Postecoglou turned to Maeda after leading F.Marinos to their drought-ending J1 League title the season prior. The 24-year-old has not looked back, taking his game to a new level with the runners-up in 2021.

The two-time Japan international shared the Golden Boot with Frontale talisman Leandro Damiao after the pair both scored 23 goals, while he was named in the league's Best XI.

With pace to burn and the ability to play on the flank or through the middle, Maeda fits Postecoglou's high-octane brand of football and pressing philosophy to a tee – he tallied the most sprints across the league (1,457), well ahead of Consadole Sapporo's Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa (869).

Maeda, who likes to cut inside from the left, also led J1 League in shots on target (51), shooting accuracy (63 per cent), big chance total (33), big chance scored (18), expected goals (21.3) and touches in the opposition box (190). He was second for total shots (92) and shot conversion rate (23.9).

 

"I never imagined I would end the season as top scorer in the league. I feel I have been able to prove I was a good signing here," Maeda, who could provide another dynamic to Celtic's attack having scored a joint-league-high six headed goals, said at the end of the season. "As always it was great to score, but I would have liked to have ended the season with a win.

"I've had a great season although I am disappointed we never managed to win the title, but on a personal level, I am very proud I was able to finish as top scorer. I always want more goals. You can never score enough.

"I believe this team can go on and have a great season next year too. Whatever happens, Marinos are a great club. I've never hidden my ambition to play in Europe. When I tried before in Portugal, Covid ruined it for me. This season has changed everything for me. Goals and a call-up for my country. For me, it's just the start."

 

Reo Hatate, Kawasaki Frontale

If Celtic want a man that can cover a number of positions, Hatate is their guy.

A defender, midfielder or forward, Hatate is coming off his second successive top-flight crown with the league's dominant force Frontale, who have won the title in four of the last five years.

Hatate has played a key role in helping maintain Frontale's dominance since making his debut in 2018.

The versatile 24-year-old – who has not played abroad, unlike Maeda or Ideguchi – is fresh off a stellar season that saw him named in J1 League's Best XI.

Like 2020, Hatate scored five goals in 30 appearances, while he supplied two assists in the league as he often played in the middle of the pitch, though he can also be deployed at left-back.

Comfortable on the ball and secure in possession, Hatate boasted a passing accuracy of 82.1 per cent in 2021. As for his creativity, he created 33 chances, highlighting his vision. He ranked in the top five for shots on target (third, 22), total shots (fourth, 59) and passes in opposition half (five, 1,297) among all defenders and midfielders.

Covering plenty of ground, Hatate also demonstrated his defensively capabilities throughout the campaign with 45 interceptions and 159 duels won, with a 53.4 success rate.

 

 

Yosuke Ideguchi, Gamba Osaka

Of the three players targeted by Celtic, the 25-year-old is somewhat the most surprising.

Labelled "wonderful" previously by former Manchester United playmaker Shinji Kagawa, Ideguchi endured a forgettable time in Europe – he joined then-Championship outfit Leeds United on a four-and-a-half-year contract in 2018 but never made an appearance for the club.

Ideguchi then bounced around on loan at Cultural Leonesa in Spain and Greuther Furth in Germany before returning to boyhood club Gamba Osaka, where he has excelled across two spells.

A player with a lot of potential upside, Ideguchi is more of a holding midfielder and is capable of finding the back of the net.

Ideguchi – part of the Gamba team that tasted domestic success via the J1 League (2014), Emperor's Cup (2014 and 2015), J.League Cup (2014) and Japanese Super Cup (2015) prior to his Leeds departure – is coming off a 29-game season, his most since the 2017 campaign.

While he did not score or register an assist, unlike the season prior when he scored four times and teed up three goals, Ideguchi's work rate and tenacity was invaluable for Gamba.

In 2021, the 15-time Japan international won 55.5 per cent of his tackles with 36 interceptions and 78 duels won. Since 2019, Ideguchi is a top-10 midfielder in tackles (fifth, 145), tackles won (fifth, 85) and interceptions (10th, 109).

 

Ange Postecoglou is in the midst of the biggest job an Australian coach has held in men's club football.

Postecoglou changed the landscape of the game in Australia and left a legacy in Japan, where he conquered the J1 League with Yokohama F.Marinos before he was lured to Glasgow by a wounded Scottish powerhouse Celtic, dethroned by bitter rivals Rangers.

After some initial backlash, Postecoglou has Celtic fans dreaming of glory through an emphasis on a high-octane style of attacking football and unrelenting belief in his philosophy.

But to get a clear picture of Postecoglou – the most decorated coach in Australian football – and his journey to Parkhead, you have to go back to his days at boyhood club South Melbourne.

Most know about Postecoglou's love for South Melbourne, where his passion for the sport grew alongside his father after immigrating from Greece.

Postecoglou went from juniors to seniors, winning two titles as a player before delivering back-to-back NSL titles as a coach and an unprecedented spot alongside Manchester United at the 2000 Club World Cup in Brazil.

Michael Petersen saw the making of Postecoglou unfold before his eyes. The former South Melbourne and Australia midfielder had been involved with the Australian great since around the age of 10 – the pair initially clashing in a junior rivalry between South and Port Melbourne.

Petersen eventually joined Postecoglou at South Melbourne in the late 1980s.

"He was a natural leader," Petersen told Stats Perform. "In a lot of ways, probably needed to get up to speed personally, but it was an invisible leadership. But he was always serious about his football. He loved the club. So his loyalty was unquestioned."

A trail-blazing coach, Postecoglou's career in the dugout is well-documented but he was also successful on the pitch – the former defender is considered to be one of South Melbourne's greatest players, having won eight pieces of silverware, while earning four international caps for Australia.

However, Postecoglou's career was cut short due to a knee injury.

"He was underestimated [as a player] but obviously he got wiped out pretty young at 27," Petersen said. "I think you're just coming into your professional career [at that age]. At the time, South Melbourne had a lot of good players in all the lines so he probably went a little bit unnoticed but not in our changing room. He was very well respected. You obviously don't make someone captain if you're not first on the teamsheet, so he was always first picked on the teamsheet."

 

Postecoglou's success has been shaped by his father, Dimitris, and legendary Hungarian Ferenc Puskas.

The 56-year-old played under Puskas from 1989 to 1992, forming a close bond, before launching his own coaching career at South Melbourne.

Postecoglou was appointed in 1996 and former general manager Peter Filopoulos was instrumental in the ex-captain's rise from skipper to coach.

"Every time I spoke to Ange, I felt like I was educated about football. Because I was an administrator. I never played at the high level. I was a little bit more educated about South Melbourne's history and he was very proud of South Melbourne history, the club and he always had these really big aspirations for the club, but also big aspirations for football in Australia as he still does," Filopoulos said.

Postecoglou's transition from player to senior coach at South Melbourne almost did not happen following the sacking of former Socceroos boss Frank Arok.

After a 3-0 loss away to Marconi in March 1996, Arok was relieved of his duties and Postecoglou put in charge on an interim basis for the remaining three games of the season.

"I remember getting the long bus trip to the airport from Fairfield and Frank had slumped in his chair and was just sulking a little bit. The players started to misbehave and were bantering. It was as if they had won 3-0, not lost 3-0. I could see Ange to the right of me was just not amused at all right, I'm sitting at the front of the bus as the official. And it got to the stage that it was out of control on the bus," Filopoulos recalled. "He went up to the front of the bus and picked up the microphone. He said, 'You listen to me, you blokes'. It was silent and he said to them, 'I've played for this club from under eights, right through to every level of South Melbourne, I've worn this jersey for every team age group, to the seniors, I captained this club and won championships. If you want to muck around, no problem, we lost 3-0 but I just want to tell you my perspective, today was the worst performance I've seen of any, any South Melbourne team of any age group in my entire career. So if you guys are happy with yourselves, and you want muck around on the bus, why don't you just reflect on the disgraceful performance and how you disgraced the team jersey today and the club'.

"That was it. There was silence for the rest of the bus trip. And then we got to the airport. And there was all these shuffling of the boarding passes. No one wanted to sit next to Ange. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, right? But I remember thinking to myself back then this guy has something special."

However, Postecoglou – who was working in a bank at the time to supplement his salary of being an assistant coach – was not even in the equation to make the step up permanently after winning all three games as South Melbourne's hierarchy eyed bigger and more established names.

"I'd be in the board meetings as a general manager, and they'd be speaking about Zoran Matic and [former Australia coach] Raul Blanco, all those big names of the time. Ange came into the office and he wasn't really mentioned around the table. They all thought he'd automatically be an assistant," Filopoulos said.

"He goes to me what's going on with the coaching gig? And me naively, I said we had a meeting last night and we're talking about Matic and Blanco. And Ange goes, 'What about me big fella?' I said, 'Are you interested?' He said 'Yes I am, I am interested'. I said, 'Well Ange, if you're interested, you need to make it known'. I thought, I wonder what the young fellas thought. We had the younger committee members and older ones. I remember ringing up some committee members and I threw Ange's name in the mix and over a few conversations, you have to give him a chance to present.

"So what I did back then, we were a very close-knit social group, the younger guys and I set up a barbecue at my place. The coaching conversation came up. And everyone's talking about those big names again. And then Ange said, 'You know I'm interested right?' And someone said, 'What? Are you really interested?' Ange started talking about his philosophy and ideas. It went for like 30 minutes. It was like a full-on pitch without knowing it was a pitch. He finished and it was dead silence. The vice-president at the time said 'Ange you're our f****** coach mate'. That was it. We lobbied hard and got him through. It was tough to get it through. There were some really older guys who weren't convinced.

"Ange got the job. And a lot of people would say that was a foresight. I would say, sometimes it was instinctive that it was the right decision. He changed everything. So there's me as general manager, it was actually quite good, because there was all these expectations and all these different things he wanted in place, which meant I worked pretty hard for him to deliver it."

 

But it was not all smooth sailing after fighting tooth and nail to appoint Postecoglou – a run of just one win from seven games to open the 1996-97 season had some South Melbourne committee members calling for Ange's head.

Filopoulos said: "There were a few phone calls from committee members and I remember one guy, he said 'you need to get rid of him at midnight tonight so no one sees him leave the club because you've made a mistake, and because you orchestrated all of this, you can follow him behind'.

"It came down to the eighth game at Marconi for a coach's career, really, because the pressure was on. We won after a scrappy 87th-minute goal. Had we not won that game, it would have been a different future for Ange. The rest is history. After that, he improved our football club. He took it to another level. We became a true destination club."

"So a similar story to Celtic, it takes some time, right? Because he does, on my experience, he turned our program upside down. He has meticulous detail and thought process, even to the point of dressing room access," he added.

Petersen, who also served as Postecoglou's assistant during his tenure as head coach of the Young Socceroos, experienced the "seamless" transition from player to coach up close and personal.

"There's layers to having a good football IQ. There's layers to it," said Petersen, who was told his playing career was ending by Postecoglou. "Ange has always had it. No, not even an issue. Very, very astute. I can rubber stamp that from, from way, way back. And that's to a point is if you love something, you really go deep into it. He goes deep into, you know, picking a football team for any matchday is a bit of a puzzle. You've just got to put the whole thing together, you've got to get the right balance of energy, skill sets. Who's going to actually perform on the day for that given day?

"He doesn't get it wrong a lot. And I can say that, but I think his history shows it. He's managed to get it right on the big days. It's by design, it's not coincidence. He gets it right. You can read all the books in the world. And you either got that gift, or you don't have that gift."

"At the time [after coaching South Melbourne to NSL glory] I thought Ange was Australia’s modern-day version of Alex Ferguson," he continued. "To this day I haven't changed my mind as I have watched him evolve and succeed and continually challenge himself and the type of football his team produces. Ange wins and wins well with style and grace."

 

From South Melbourne to Australia and Japan, Postecoglou has won it all – a pair of National Soccer League championships, back-to-back A-League titles, a record 36-match unbeaten streak at Brisbane Roar, plus a ground-breaking 2015 Asian Cup triumph with the Socceroos and a J1 League crown with F.Marinos – while silencing his doubters.

Postecoglou, like Manchester City's Pep Guardiola and former Juventus and Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, pushes the boundaries. Firmly set in his belief of how football should be played, Postecoglou's approach never wavers and success follows in his pursuit of excellence.

That has always been the case for Postecoglou.

Recalling Postecoglou's first steps in senior coaching and his pitch-side antics, Petersen – who also worked alongside Ange at South Melbourne after retirement – said: "We almost had a rule, no one was allowed to talk on the bench. If you're gonna say something, it's gotta mean something, otherwise chitter chatter and joking around, none of that. So there's none of this micro-coaching, if you like. Ange was almost locked in tune with the game. He was actually very, very still, quiet and measured."

Postecoglou is known for not getting too close to his players and Petersen added: "I think that's a maturity beyond his years in a sense that he always, because he probably had to start coaching young and he kind of realised early that you do have to draw a line from mateship because players are insecure creatures, and they'll look for any way to get a way in and if you can be pals, you might jag a spot because he likes you.

"Ange never did that. He made decisions that were based on what was best for the club, not necessarily on the individual. Even as a captain, looking back, he was galvanising the hierarchy, the directors of the football club, everything was all about what was best for the football club. I think that's rare to see players who do that. And then already when they transition into assistant coach and then senior coach, you knew there was a line. And that was all right. I think, in the wash-up, once you know the rules of a gaffer, you love it, you go, 'Okay, well, I know where I stand, I've got to perform'. And it's not just performing in games, it's performing at training. We have to perform, every training session means something.

"We joke around in the changing rooms and then we had fun. We had ghetto blasters, telling jokes. I think the moment we hit the football pitch, for that block of time, for an hour and a half, it was business. There's no laughing, football is serious. Because you laugh and joke, you lose football games. So you train how you play. So the intensity should always be at training. I think Ange knew that already at a young age – perform at training, transition that into games, and then whatever happens after hours, yeah, let's have some fun as well."

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