Can Kyogo Furuhashi become the next Asian cult hero at Celtic?

Kyogo Furuhashi only made his professional debut at the age of 22 but has earned a move to Europe with Scottish giants Celtic just four years on. Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

Celtic have had such a union before. And it was a blissful one indeed.

Welcoming a relatively unknown Asian import is nothing new for the Scottish Premiership giants, yet one that has proven to be quite the success story in recent times.

Lest Celtic fans get overly heady at their latest signing, it is unlikely the impending arrival of Kyogo Furuhashi from Vissel Kobe will be the second coming of Shunsuke Nakamura. Or even Ki Sung-yueng for that matter.

At least in the role he will play for the team.

But there is every chance Furuhashi can go on to become the newest Asian cult hero at Celtic Park, especially after his rapid rise that saw him go from second-tier footballer to full-fledged Japan international in the span of three-and-a-half years.

It is remarkable to think that, before 2018, Furuhashi had not played top-flight football even in his native Japan. In fact, he only made his professional debut at the age of 22.

A late bloomer by all standards, Furuhashi has certainly been making up for lost time.

After two seasons with FC Gifu, he earned a move to the J1 League with Vissel, whose ambition at the time was still yet to kick into overdrive, but big-name arrivals such as Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Thomas Vermaelen were soon to follow.

Despite the illustrious figures he found himself amongst, Furuhashi had no issues proving his worth and has been Vissel's top scorer since the start of the 2020 season with 26 league goals to his name.

The most impressive part? He is not an out-and-out striker, but rather a wide forward who has surpassed expectations with his scoring output.

This is the exact reason why he should not be expected to figure in the way that Nakamura -- the 2006-07 Scottish Footballer of the Year -- did.

Quite simply, Furuhashi does not feature as part of the team's spine in a similar vein as a metronomic midfield figure like Nakamura, or even ex-Korea Republic captain Ki. Perhaps a fairer comparison would be another of Celtic's former Asian stars in Cha Du-ri, a utility who rarely hogged the headlines but was always a valuable role-player.

As often as Furuhashi will win matches singlehandedly, he will also struggle to influence the contest and have games with reduced impact.

That is just the nature of his role and style of play, but also the challenge he must present to himself at Celtic.

To go from an undoubtedly quality performer at Asian level that has earned a European move, to a standout who is a regular and consistent contributor to his team even at times when he might not be expected to.

If he gets even close to that, Furuhashi can look forward to being treated by the Celtic faithful with the same adulation as Nakamura and Ki before him.