Tomoki Iwata's Celtic role explained, no bids for duo and why Alexandro Bernabei was overlooked at Ibrox
The 25-year-old arrival from Yokohama F Marinos is expected to be in attendance for the match against Kilmarnock on Saturday after joining on an initial loan deal ahead of a permanent move in the summer.
Iwata worked with Ange Postecoglou at his previous club, and the Celtic manager is backing his latest Japanese recruit to hit the ground running.
“He’ll need a bit of work but knowing the player and the person well, he will be working really hard to be ready as quickly as possible," he said. “The first thing is getting him in and settled and I’m sure before long he’ll be contributing. He’s a really intelligent footballer. He takes in information really well and is very disciplined."
Iwata is capable of playing in a variety of positions across midfield and defence and Postecoglou is open minded over the role he could play at Celtic after deploying him in midfield during his time in charge of Yokohama. "The way we were playing at the time, with that double six, I felt he could be a really good player," he said. “In Japan, a lot of teams tend to play on the counter-attack so I thought he could be a really good extra layer of defensive security for us. But he’s also very good on the ball technically and a very powerful runner. I knew that he could play two or three positions. Full-back, centre-back and as a six. If you look at his record at Yokohama even after I left, he’s done all those roles really well.”
While fellow January recruit Alistair Johnston was handed his debut in the 2-2 draw with Rangers at Ibrox on Monday, Celtic's other new signing Yuki Kobayashi may have to wait for his chance following his arrival from Vissel Kobe. “We’ll see. It’s about opportunity," Postecoglou said. "He’s been training with us now for two or three weeks and joined us in Portugal. He’s a little bit different to Ali in that Ali played at the World Cup. Yuki hasn’t had a competitive game for quite a while so it’s just about introducing him at the right time.”
With first-choice left-back Greg Taylor ruled out for at least two weeks with a hamstring strain, Postecoglou confirmed summer signing Alexandro Bernabei will start against Killie, despite bringing on right-back Josip Juranovic ahead of him when Taylor was forced off at Ibrox. "I’m really happy with Bernabei," he stressed. "The only reason I didn’t bring him on the other day is that I had an international defender just back from the World Cup to put on ahead of him. We’re really happy with his progress. We knew it would be a long-term project with him being so young and not having a lot of experience, but he’s come on leaps and bounds. He’ll get an opportunity on Saturday and I’ve no doubt he will do well. He’s a great young player and one I’ve got high hopes for. There are no issues there.”
Despite speculation, Posteocglou also confirmed there have been no concrete offers for Giorgos Giakoumakis and Juranovic, adding: “At this point, we’ve had nothing serious about any of the players within the group."
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