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Maeda, Muscat and Rodgers meet the media

Brendan Rodgers and his players had a busy time of it as they woke up to Day 1 of their tour of Japan.

The commercial aspects of the visit were to the fore, not many visiting clubs can bring three current internationalists to Japan with the bonus of two former Yokohama F Marinos players in the squad for Wednesday’s match.

Early in the day Celtic’s Japanese players were presented to some fans and reporters for a Question and Answer session alongside Shunsuke Nakamura.

The recently retired midfielder has legendary status across Japan but especially in Yokohama where he had two playing stints with the Marinos and is now working as a coach with Yokohama FC.

Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi have been pictured with Nakamura since they followed him to Celtic and genuinely looked in awe of the midfielder signed by Gordon Strachan.

It was Champions League exploits that really established Nakamura as an icon in Japan, when you score home and away against Manchester United folk tend to look at you in a different light.

The challenge of the Champions League lies ahead for the 2023 Japanese contingent after they got a taster for elite level competition last term.

After picking up a shoulder injury in the September Glasgow Derby there was always the feeling through the autumn that Kyogo wasn’t quite at his sharpest in the Champions League.

Reo Hatate had the biggest assist possible in the 1-1 draw away to Shakhtar Donetsk but that incident where he was almost credited with a goal summed up Celtic’s luck in the Champions League. Bad luck.

Two pre-season matches in Japan are the priority for Brendan Rodgers but his mind and planning are bound to be looking forward to the autumn nights in the Champions League.

First time around there were some headline grabbing defeats for the Irishman which masked some impressive results. Home and away draws against Manchester City set the standard in that Invincible (domestic) season while a draw away to Borussia Monchengladbach and victory in Anderlecht hinted at what was possible.

Any match involving Kevin Muscat is bound to be competitive, at Millwall and Wolves he developed a fearsome reputation but his season at Ibrox seemed to be on mute.

In other circumstances Muscat could have been a contender to take over from Ange Postecoglou, his career path is very similar but the appeal of Rodgers was overwhelming to the Celtic board with Enzo Maresca and Kjetil Knetsen of Bodo Glimt the alternatives.

Friendlies against Celtic followed by Manchester City on Saturday give Muscat the chance to showcase his qualities, if Ange Postecoglou is successful at Spurs it is likely that other English clubs will consider Australian coaches and managers.

Having experienced the EPL at Liverpool and Leicester, Rodgers returns to Celtic highly experienced but displaying the enthusiasm of someone thrilled to get a second chance in a job that very few thought he’d have any chance of taking up.

Last week in Portugal there was virtually a media blackout but things become more public this week with the Marinos match and Saturday’s game against Gamba Osaka both live on Celtic TV.

The PR and Marketing work will be put to one side as Rodgers sends his side out to face opponents in mid-season packed with players wanting to put one over on some of their celebrated compatriots making a name for themselves in Europe.

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