One of the little understood difficulties with signing a foreign player is that you never know, until they arrive, how they are going to fit in.
How will they adapt to the culture, to the weather, to the little local customs and traditions? You don’t know how they will do with a new style of football in a totally different football environment. Will the language be a problem? Will they hate the food?
It’s easy to say that if you do your due diligence that none of that should matter. But we took a chance on signing Kyogo Furuhashi no matter how it looks now. Because he was travelling from the other side of the world for a completely new footballing experience. It speaks volumes for our manager that he realised the player could cope. It speaks volumes for the player too.
The truth is that due diligence itself cannot account for half of what you need to know when you bring a footballer to your club from so far afield. To come to a new country and settle so quickly takes real fortitude. This boy is made of strong stuff.
He handles everything very well. He has already made a connection with the fans, and he enjoys communicating with them on social media. He speaks highly of the club when talking to the Japanese press, and he clearly likes Scotland. He is friendly, courteous and good humoured. He is also fiercely determined to be the best he can be.
We have a bargain here. As big a risk as the first signing from the Far East could have been, we did pay quite a bit of money for Kyogo, at least by the standards of this league. It could all have gone wrong in a big, big way but he’s been worth every penny.
What’s more, when you sign a player from over there you know that it will give you a lift in your exposure in that region, so you hope for the right personality type. He ticks all those boxes as well. He is a great ambassador for Japan but also for Celtic in Japan and the Far East in general. He follows in the footsteps of Nakamura, of course, who we took to our hearts, and it’s clear that he has the deepest respect for his countryman and what he achieved.
But it was good to read in the interview today that he has set his own goals and targets, that he has ambitions to beat Edouard’s tally for last season in the SPL (18; Kyogo is on 4 at the moment, but he won’t take long to catch up) and to win honours.
That one is especially important, of course, and he already has a cup semi-final and the stage of Hampden to look forward to in that regard.
There is little doubt that this Kyogo has it in him to become a Celtic fan icon in the way Nakamura was but perhaps even bigger. As the best natural predator we’ve seen since the King (yes, you can already tell he has more to his game than Edouard) he has a chance to score more goals, in bigger games, than the great winger and scorer of free kicks ever did.
And I write that as someone who has Nakamura in my all-time best XI. I loved that guy and regard his swerving, stunning goal against Rangers at Parkhead as the finest I’ve ever witnessed from a Celtic player. Kyogo can eclipse even his eastern star. Of course, the real dream scenario would have been to see two such majestic talents in the same team.
Instead, I’m thankful both for what we had and for what we’ve got.