Alexandro Bernabei: Sharing pitch in Japan with Reo Hatate helped enhance reputation which has earned him a move to Celtic

It was in March last year that Alexandro Bernabei may have appeared on Ange Postecoglou’s radar for the first time.

Alexandro Bernabei celebrates after scoring for Lanus against Montevideo Wanderers in a Copa Sudamericana match on May 19, 2022. (Photo by ALEJANDRO PAGNI/AFP via Getty Images)
Alexandro Bernabei celebrates after scoring for Lanus against Montevideo Wanderers in a Copa Sudamericana match on May 19, 2022. (Photo by ALEJANDRO PAGNI/AFP via Getty Images)

When Argentina travelled for two friendly matches against a Japan side including some of Postecoglou’s then players at Yokohama F Marinos, left-back Bernabei was rewarded for his increasingly impressive form at Lanus with a call-up to his country’s under-23 squad.

Bernabei appeared in both games, a 1-0 win in Tokyo followed by a 3-0 defeat in Fukuoka, as did Japanese midfielder Reo Hatate with whom he is now about to become a team-mate at Celtic.

The fee of around £3.5 million the Scottish champions are understood to be paying Lanus for Bernabei’s services is an investment in both the burgeoning credentials and rich potential of the 21-year-old.

Alexandro Bernabei in action for Argentina in an under-23 international match against Japan in Fukuoka on March 29, 2021. (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)

Born in the commune of Correa in the Santa Fe province of Argentina, he travelled south to the suburbs of Buenos Aries to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional footballer when he joined the Lanus youth academy set-up.

In the summer of 2018, Bernabei received his first international recognition when he was named in the Argentina Under-18 squad for the South American Games in Bolivia. While silverware eluded him as Argentina lost 3-2 to Uruguay in the semi-finals and were then beaten 2-0 by Colombia in the third place play-off, Bernabei earned praise for his performances during the tournament.

He had to wait until October the following year to make his first team breakthrough for Lanus, marking the occasion in memorable fashion as he scored in a 4-2 league win away to Talleres at the Mario Kempes Stadium in Cordoba.

Deployed as an attacking left-sided midfielder in some of his early appearances, including a 2-1 win over Boca Juniors in his home debut, Bernabei soon established himself at left-back in a progressive Lanus team which deployed 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formations not dissimilar to those favoured by Postecoglou.

Bernabei helped Lanus to a respectable seventh place finish in his maiden campaign in the Argentine Primera Division and also thrived when taking his first steps into continental competition in the Copa Sudamericana, the South American equivalent of the Europa League.

Lanus enjoyed a superb run to the final, their scalps along the way including Sao Paulo of Brazil. Bernabei scored in the semi-final victory over Velez Sarsfield in January 2021 but the all-Argentinian final against Defensa y Justicia in Cordoba the same month proved a major disappointment as Lanus were well beaten 3-0.

Bernabei had firmly established himself as a first team regular with Lanus, becoming a favourite with the club’s support for his energetic and adventurous contributions which included five goals and 10 assists across his 87 appearances for the club.

He also racked up 22 bookings and two dismissals, the most recent coming in the shape of a straight red card for retaliation in a flare-up with Augusto Schott of Colon de Santa Fe during what proved to be his final outing for Lanus earlier this month. It remains to be seen if the suspension it earned him will be passed on to be served in Scotland.

Bernabei’s temperament will be tested along with his talent as he joins Postecoglou’s Champions League-bound squad but Celtic supporters can feel enthused at the prospect of watching their club’s first ever Argentinian player.

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