It didn’t take long for Ange Postecoglou to conclude that Kyogo Furuhashi was the real deal.

But from laying eyes on this diminutive striker, who had only just stepped up from the second tier of Japanese football, he could scarcely have imagined the journey they would one day embark upon half way across the world.

Postecoglou was alerted to Kyogo’s presence by the fact his Yokohama F. Marinos defenders could not keep track of it. The Celtic manager refused to take his eye off him after that, and when he upped sticks for Glasgow in the summer of 2021, he already knew who his first signing would be.

Four trophies and 50 goals later, things haven’t worked out too badly. Both men were both recognised at Sunday’s PFA Scotland awards, walking away as Manager of the Year and Player of the Year

“He was an opponent,”” Postecoglou recalled. “We were playing in his country. I was coaching at Yokohama, and he had just been signed from a second division club Gifu by Vissel Kobe. It was his first year in. He scored in his first game against us, and we were on a decent run at the time

“I remember our defenders saying he was just unbelievable; they couldn’t track his movement. I have followed him ever since then, every game he played whether we were playing against him or not. I could see he was just growing as a footballer all the time.

“I was [sure he’d be a success]. Look, it is easy for me to say now, but he was the first person that I wanted to sign. To be fair, wherever I got a job here in Europe he would have been the first player I signed irrespective of the level I was managing at, because I knew the qualities he has as a footballer are hard to find.

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“He scores goals, which is kind of obvious. But his work rate, his intelligence on the field, the kind of person he is, I had no doubt he would be a hit wherever I took him. But when I landed at Celtic I thought he was a perfect fit for the club and the way I wanted to play football. He just fits in perfectly.

“It is great to see him get the recognition. You could see it when he spoke. He was as humble as he always is. The beauty of that is that you know there is still more to come from him. He has been outstanding for us in the last couple of years.

“To come to a new club, a new country, where the expectations are so big and to fill some pretty big shoes, because the last few strikers at Celtic have gone on to pretty big things, he has taken that mantle seriously.”

He’s right in that Celtic have been blessed with a conveyor belt of talismen over recent seasons. Kyogo stepped into the void left by Odsonne Edouard, who himself had taken over from Moussa Dembele. Both had been heroes to the Celtic support, so there was no shortage of pressure on the new arrival to emulate that at a time when new icons were desperately needed.

“He has been great,” said Postecoglou. “If you look at his goals per game ratio, it is up there. People forget that he missed a fair bit through injury last year. This year I tend to take him off after 60 or 70 minutes only because I want him to play in every game.

“If I kept him on for 90 minutes when opposition teams are tiring he would probably have another 10 or 15 goals under his belt. Like I said, he works really hard for the team, he does what he needs to do, he has just got that uncanny sense of knowing when to be when the ball arrives in the box.”

Of his 30 goals this season, however, none were registered in Celtic’s Champions League campaign. Postecoglou’s long-term aim has been to make the club competitive on the continent once more, and having been confirmed as Premiership champions for the second season running, they will get another crack at Europe’s best come next season.

It was evident that Celtic’s lack of clinical edge proved costly in this term’s group stage, and there was a real sense of ‘what if’ around two matches against Shakhtar Donetsk, in particular, which were strewn with missed opportunities. Postecoglou believes Kyogo may just feel he has unfinished business in that regard.

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“Yeah, absolutely,” the manager said. “He is constantly challenging himself. I have said before, he has got a real pleasant nature about him, he is constantly smiling. But her is a competitor. He wants to win, he wants to be the best, he wants to score goals in every game he plays. I see that every day in training. His team mates know that. He has got a real hunger and desire to be the best striker he can be. I still think there is a lot of improvement in him.”

Given their success over the past year, it is inevitable there will be some noise around Celtic’s best when the transfer window opens. Postecoglou himself has previously prepared fans for the distinct possibility that there may be the odd heartbreak amid the over-arching goal of driving the club on to a higher level, which will involve cashing in on certain players when the time and money is right.

The prospect of richer clubs muscling in to court his top stars doesn’t appear to keep the manager awake at night, though. And he emphasised his confidence that Kyogo remains happy and settled in his current surroundings, something he hopes continues for years to come.

“As confident as I am about keeping any other player,” Postecoglou said of the likelihood of retaining his top scorer. You always want to keep every player, but I have been involved in this game for so long that I know that’s not how football works.

“You prepare to keep everyone, you prepare to lose everyone. All you can try and do is make sure that the players are in a good space, are happy, are improving, they are enjoying their football. That is all you can do. You can’t chain them down, it is their football careers, their lives, they have to make decisions on.

“What I do know is he is really happy at the football club, he loves playing for the football club, he loves the supporters, he loves his teammates. Hopefully he is here for a very long time.”