Reo Hatate has moved to allay Celtic fans’ fears over why he missed Sunday’s title celebration at Parkhead.

The midfielder, nominated for PFA Scotland Player of the Year alongside Kyogo Furuhashi, Callum McGregor and Motherwell’s Kevin van Veen, sent the social media rumour mill into overdrive - seemingly inadvertantly - after being a notable absentee from the jubilant scenes at Celtic Park.

Hatate has been linked with Brighton and Hove Albion, and there were claims he had travelled south to watch countryman and friend Kaoru Mitoma in action against Everton on Monday. The Japanese star revealed he did indeed watch the game - on TV, at home.

READ MORE: Three Celtic players nominated for PFA Premiership Player of the Year

Asked what he thought of worried fans questioning where he'd gone, Hatate laughed: “Well, you can leave me alone, maybe? It’s not a big deal.

“People are reading too much into it. I had my personal things so I had to be away from the team. But that’s all, nothing else.

“I wasn’t at the Brighton game - I watched it on the television in my house.

“The main thing is that I play for Celtic. This is where I am, and I am focusing on the rest of the games.”

Hatate described being recognised by his fellow players on his first full season in the Premiership as an ‘honour’. And while he believes Celtic, still on course for a treble, can be satisfied with their domestic performance this season, he’s already looking to next term’s Champions League as an area for marked improvement.

“That would be a great thing for my career to try to impress the other teams,” he said. “But then at the same time they are tough games in the Champions League so I don’t think I can play [well] in every game. There will be good and bad of course. All I can do is prepare and try and do my best.

“After the six games in the Champions League group, personally I think the other teams had better qualities in terms of technique and they finish when they get chances to score. But at the same time we kept the ball well.

“That we think we can do at the same level so if we can improve our technique and if we can finish better than this season then I think we can compete next season.”