BRENDAN RODGERS has told Reo Hatate he still has it all to prove under his leadership.

And the Celtic manager insists he will continue to pick ‘the best team, not the best players’ after leaving the Japanese midfielder out of Saturday’s Premiership opener against Ross County. Hatate was among the first names on Ange Postecoglou’s teamsheet but was left out in favour of the in-form David Turnbull for last weekend’s 4-2 win, in which the Scotland international scored twice.

Rodgers revealed Hatate responded positively to his omission ahead of Sunday’s trip to Aberdeen, but suggested the 25-year-old still has work to do in becoming a regular fixture in his team. He says the decision was as much about Turnbull’s excellent pre-season displays, maintaining the Scot has set a standard he must not allow to drop.

“I’ve mentioned before, it’s not in my contract to play any player,” said Rodgers. “Reo’s got three years left on his contract so there’s no rush. It’s a new cycle, a new manager and he has to prove himself. 

“I’m not really worried about what’s said or not, I’ll play the team I see with the best energy, mentality and efficiency with how we want to work.

“There’s no doubt Reo is a talented player, but there’s other talented players in the squad. If players aren’t playing, I’ve been open and honest with them about where we’re at, how I prepare a team, when I tell them the team, and when they’re not playing how they’ve got to respond.

“Reo’s been really good in training. He didn’t play but he came into the game.

“He knows areas he needs to work on to play for me, and the structure of how I work. He’s responded really well in training and will absolutely be a player we need over the course of the season.

“You’re picking the best team, not the best players. And assessing everything.

“Over the course of pre-season David did really, really well. But the challenge for him now is consistency and appetite every single day he’s here.

“His standard of performance cannot drop. When you’re at a top club there is always someone looking to take your place.”

There has been some online discussion around Hatate’s body language in recent weeks, but Rodgers is adamant there are no ‘red flags’ over his – or anyone else’s – attitude.

“Look, you never expect players to be happy if they are not playing,” the manager said. “That’s just the way Reo is, too. Even before a ball was kicked, I could see he has that style and way about him.

“But he’s a good guy, there is no question of that. There are none of them here who I’d say there is a red flag in terms of their attitude.

“They are all so professional in their work and do everything correctly. But it’s not really about the 11 who started against Ross County. This really is a squad game now for the competitions we want to be in, and for the team we want to be.

“If I was a player I wouldn’t be losing sleep for not being in the starting 11. It’s a lot about the finishing 11 anyway. With five substitutions that’s 50 per cent of your outfield players you can change.

“The modern game is different now, especially if we’re going to have an extra 10 minutes onto every game.”