Ever since Ange Postecoglou was officially announced as Celtic manager, the name Daizen Maeda had been linked to the club as a potential signing target. The Japanese forward, who worked with Postecoglou at Yokahama F. Marinos, was signed by the Australian in 2020 on loan and then made the move permanent in 2021 from Matsumoto Yamaga.
This partnership was to be a fruitful one, as Maeda would become one of the most potent attackers in the J-League under the stewardship of Ange. In a total of 70 games – in which he worked under two Aussies in Postecoglou and Kevin Muscat – he managed to find the net 26 times for the Yokahama side. It was hardly a surprise, therefore, when Celtic came calling in December, that Daizen Maeda would take the next steps in his career, again under a familiar face in Postecoglou.
Announced alongside two fellow Japanese players in the shape of Yosuke Ideguchi and Reo Hatate, there was a lot of fanfare when Maeda was paraded online, with clips being shared regarding his eye for goal, along with his freakish pace and work rate both on and off the ball. Maeda was the only player out of the three new Japanese players to not sign permanently, although the loan signing has a compulsory buy obligation inserted which means his long-term future at Celtic is confirmed.
Thankfully for Celtic supporters, they did not have to wait long for Maeda to make an immediate impact on the first team. It took the Japanese international player a mere four minutes to get onto the scoresheet against Hibernian, which was the first game back after the winter break. A terrific start for the new arrival, whose style of play impressed the Celtic faithful from the get-go who were delighted to see him break his duck so early on in his Hoops career.
After playing in the Scottish Cup against Alloa, Maeda was called up for Japan’s World Cup Qualifiers, meaning he was unavailable for selection against both Hearts and Dundee United, but returned in a cameo appearance in the 3-0 defeat of Rangers. He would then score in the next league match against Motherwell, where his deflected shot looped over Kelly into the home side’s net. The signs were certainly looking promising that Celtic had another effective winger on their hands, who could also play through the middle if necessary. This versatility could make him an asset when called upon in whatever position the manager needed Maeda to play.
Goals against opposition such as Raith Rovers, Bodo/Glimt and most recently Ross County have ensured that Maeda is a first-team regular for Ange Postecoglou, but it has been his work rate that has really impressed the Celtic support most. Much like his fellow Celtic and Japan teammate Kyogo Furuhashi, Daizen Maeda is an extremely competent presser of the ball, and leads from the front when it comes to pressurising the opponent.
One specific clip that has gone viral recently is that of Maeda tireless running at the Ross County defence in the 88th minute, in which the defender in question almost gifts the forward a one-on-one chance with his goalkeeper thanks to a short pass. Granted, the County keeper managed to get to the ball first, but Maeda’s eagerness to run at defences and test their composure is why he truly belongs in an Ange Postecoglou side; thus, his goal tally will only increase if he continues to work at this pace that the manager demands of him.
Daizen Maeda now looks like both a player and a person who has managed to settle and acclimatise to his new surroundings in Scotland for Celtic. A record of six goals in just 14 games is good going for a player just coming off the back of a standout season in Japan, and at the age of 24 will only improve under the watchful eye of a familiar face in Ange Postecoglou.