Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou is closing in on his second Scottish Premiership title in as many seasons as his side are sitting 13 points clear with five games left to play.
The Hoops can secure the title this weekend if results go their way and one of the keys to the club’s impressive form in the division has been the manager’s superb recruitment since arriving in the summer of 2021.
Postecoglou has brought in a number of excellent gems to bolster the squad, including the likes of Jota, Liel Abada, and Cameron Carter-Vickers, and he will be hoping that his latest batch of January recruits turn out to be just as effective.
Yuki Kobayashi joined from Vissel Kobe at the start of the year and he could be one of the next success stories as the youngster has the potential to be the dream heir to 27-year-old Carl Starfelt’s position on the left-side of the centre-back pairing.
How has Yuki Kobayashi performed for Celtic?
The 22-year-old defender has only played three times in the Premiership since making the switch to Scotland but has caught the eye in his limited minutes.
He averaged a Sofascore rating of 7.03 in those matches and completed 93% of his attempted passes, whilst also winning 44% of his individual duels.
These statistics indicate that the defender is still adjusting to the physicality of the Scottish top-flight but his 68% success rate in his battles in the J1 League in 2022 suggests that the potential is there for him to be a dominant defender.
Starfelt has averaged a Sofascore rating of 7.25 in the Premiership and won 67% of his defensive duels in the division but has been playing on the left of Carter-Vickers despite being naturally right-footed.
The Japanese enforcer has shown signs of being able to perform at a similar level, with his three displays in Scotland so far and his impressive dominance at his previous club, and he also has room to improve at the age of 22.
Bhoys teammate Greg Taylor recently heaped praise on the “unbelievable” Kobayashi and hailed the “balance” that having a natural left-footed player in defence can provide the team.
The £1.2m-rated defender could slot in on the left side to be the long-term heir to Starfelt’s position in the team, with the Swedish international possibly moving to the bench or to the right centre-back position in the years to come, if he is able to adapt to Scottish football and find his best form.
At 22, the 6 foot 1 warrior still has plenty of time left ahead of him to develop and grow and Postecoglou may have brought him in with a view to taking over on the left of Carter-Vickers in the future.