As Celtic romped to victory over Rangers in the Scottish League Cup final on Sunday to continue their remarkable surge under manager Ange Postecoglou, it was telling that nine of the starting lineup at Hampden had been signed during the 57-year-old’s tenure, with only Greg Taylor and Callum McGregor having been at the club prior to his arrival.
While rival boss Michael Beale has previously suggested that Postecoglou has been somewhat “lucky” to be able to carry out such a vast squad overhaul over the past 18 months or so, it is a testament to the latter’s man judgement that he has rarely put a foot wrong in the transfer market, having routinely snapped up previously hidden gems on the cheap.
Of course, there have been those additions that have not worked out – with Yosuke Ideguchi recently departing on loan after a year plagued by injury – yet on the whole the Old Firm side’s recruitment has been near-on perfect under the Greek-Aussie’s watch.
One notable transfer success that the title-winning coach has enjoyed has been the signing of Japan international, Daizen Maeda, with the 25-year-old having thrived after signing as part of a triple J-League swoop alongside both Ideguchi and Reo Hatate back in January 2022.
Having initially joined on loan from Yokohama Marinos – where he had played under Postecoglou – the relentless dynamo was then signed permanently for a fee of just £1.3m last summer, with that minimal cost already looking like a total bargain as far as the Glasgow giants are concerned.
How much is Maeda worth now?
As ex-Bhoys striker Chris Sutton stated earlier this week on the BBC’s Monday Night Club, the Parkhead outfit have effectively been “stealing” players from the Japanese market after securing deals on the cheap, with Maeda one obvious success story.
A player who is simply a “one man closing down machine” with “incredible energy” – as per Sutton – the 12-cap ace is now said to be worth around €9.4m (£8m), according to Football Transfers, with that representing a major increase on the forward’s initial cost.
That valuation has been more than justified amid the £18k-per-week man’s standout displays in recent times, as he now boasts nine goals and six assists in 36 games in all competitions this season, with his overall record for the club now standing at 28 goal involvements in just 58 appearances.
That’s not to suggest that it has all been plain sailing for the 5 foot 8 ace as he notably missed a number of big chances (three) in the Champions League group stage and has been branded a “headless chicken” by writer Casey Evans in the recent past, although he is now undoubtedly a key figure in Postecoglou’s side.
A real “nuisance” in attack who looks like a “man possessed” at times – as pundit Rio Ferdinand noted during the World Cup in Qatar – Maeda has rightly earned plaudits for his remarkable work ethic, with it no doubt pleasing to see that energetic approach now combined with a regular end product.
While those at Celtic Park will not be looking to cash in any time soon – despite recent interest from Premier League strugglers Southampton – it will be pleasing to know that if he does eventually depart, it will likely see the club make a notable profit on their initial investment.
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