There was a lot of speculation around the future of Reo Hatate in the summer. Clubs like Brighton & Hove Albion, Tottenham Hotspur and more were linked with him. The rumours appeared to have a negative effect on the Japanese midfielder's performances as well but he ultimately ended up signing a long-term contract with the Hoops.
Overall, it has been a season to forget for Hatate. He has dealt with injury problems and when on the pitch, he has consistently looked at his best either.
Hatate did make his long-awaited return from injury in the recent game against St Mirren. The Japanese midfielder was brought on as a late substitute, with Celtic cruising to victory.
It is Hatate's actions after the game that grabbed the headlines though. He seemed very emotional and shared a hug with Brendan Rodgers. Many fans on social media tried to put two and two together and wondered whether the Japanese midfielder would be leaving in January.
Celtic boss explains emotional Hatate moment amid exit fears
It looks like Hatate being emotional after the game had nothing to do with him possibly leaving Celtic this month. As reported by the Daily Record, Rodgers said:
"You could see afterwards Reo was actually quite emotional to be back out on the pitch again.
"He’s put in so much hard work and he’s a big, big player for us. So hopefully he can go away and get some minutes and keep his fitness up because when he comes back he’s going to be huge for us in the second half of the season."
Hatate quite certainly has had a tough time this season. When on top form, he is one of Celtic's best players though.
One can only hope that he does not pick up any more fitness issues moving forward and finds his best form. He could have some tough competition to get into the team though.
Matt O'Riley and Callum McGregor are both automatic selections. And Paulo Bernardo has been in the form of his life in recent weeks. Over the last three games, he has scored and assisted twice each. That includes the fantastic opener against the Rangers in the Glasgow Derby.