• Kyodo, staff report

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Scottish Premier League giant Celtic is in the process of trying to acquire Japan forward Daizen Maeda, and midfielders Yosuke Ideguchi and Reo Hatate, a source with knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

Yokohama F. Marinos, where the 24-year-old Maeda plays, and Gamba Osaka, the 25-year-old Ideguchi’s club, are said to be open to transfer discussions out of respect for their players’ wishes to play overseas again.

Both were less than successful in their initial European forays: Maeda played just one season at Portugual’s Maritomo, while Ideguchi managed only 12 total league appearances in the Spanish and German second divisions while on loan from Leeds before returning to Gamba in August 2019.

Maeda was joint-top-scorer in the J. League first division, scoring his 23rd goal on Saturday in the J1’s final round, while the 24-year-old Hatate, who plays both at left back and in midfield, has been a key contributor to Kawasaki Frontale’s J. League championships the past two seasons.

The source said, however, that Frontale want much more for Hatate than the terms Celtic is prepared to offer. Hatate, who represented Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, turned pro in 2019 and has yet to play abroad.

Maeda also played for the Japan U-24 side that finished fourth in the tournament. Ideguchi, the J. League’s 2016 rookie of the year and a 2017 Best XI selection, was a preliminary selection for Japan’s 2018 World Cup squad but failed to make the final roster.

It is unusual for an overseas club to target three Japanese players, but Celtic’s current manager, Australian Ange Postecoglou, managed Marinos for 3½ seasons before leaving for the Glasgow club in June.

This summer, Celtic acquired Vissel Kobe’s Kyogo Furuhashi, who had eight goals in 12 league games for Celtic through Thursday.

Celtic — where midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, currently with Yokohama FC, was a fan favorite — has been Scotland’s champions 51 times and is currently second in the league.

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