Martin O’Neill says Kyogo Furuhashi is “on the right track” to become a Celtic legend but admits it’s too early for compare him to Henrik Larsson.
The former Hoops boss, who won three league titles, a treble and reached a European final during his five years in the east-end of Glasgow, was full of praise for the Japan forward who has scored 29 goals in Scotland this season.
And no praise could be higher, from a Celtic fan’s point of view, to be compared to the club’s greatest modern day legend who scored 242 goals in 315 appearances before moving on to win the Champions League with Barcelona and have a short, but successful, spell under Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final, O’Neill said on Kyogo: “There’s lots of comparisons with Henrik Larsson at the moment, but I think he has a bit to do yet.
“Kyogo’s only been here ten minutes in comparison to Henrik, who was here a number of years, but he’s very good, he’s got an eye for a goal, he can turn in the box, it just seems that’s what he wants to do.
“He’s really been excellent, and I think more so because we didn’t really know anything about him, and a number of the players. And the same can maybe be said for the manager in many aspects, but he’s come in and things could have easily turned against him but he believed in what he was doing, believed in the players and it’s come good in a big fashion for him.
“I think it’s a big reach comparing him to Larsson but he’s on the right path at this moment, he’s got a lot to do, but to even draw some sort of comparison with Henrik, it shows you he is doing ok.”
Larsson played a major part in all of O’Neill’s successes in Scotland and he still holds the former Sweden star in high esteem.
He believes that Postecoglou will have the exact same feeling about having Kyogo lead the line for him.
He said: “I’m sure the manager is as delighted with him as I was with Larsson, who used to pull us out of many a hole.
“I remember once saying to John Robertson, ‘Henrik hasn’t scored yet’ and he said ‘because we haven’t kicked off yet’.
“When you have someone like that in the team you know you can always conjure a goal from somewhere and I think that’s a big plus for any manager.
“The signing of Kyogo looks like a snip, absolutely, when Henrik Larsson scored a lot of goals first of all in Scotland, and there might have been a bit of derision from some people, then he scored them in European football and international, and one of his greatest games ever was in the UEFA Cup Final when he scored two goals against the side that went on to win the Champions League.
“After that he goes to Barcelona, and he makes a difference in the European Cup Final against Arsenal and then goes on, at around 33 or 34 and scores goals at Manchester United, so much so that one of the great managers of all time wants him to stay at the football club.
“Now, that is the sort of thing that Kyogo, hopefully during the course of his career, could end up achieving and that would be great, but that’s a long way away.
“He’s got the talent, absolutely no question about that, he can score goals and that’s a major plus in this game. And other people will start taking notice when he does it more regularly in Europe.”
The 71-year-old, who managed Celtic between 2000 and 2005, believes his former side have the upper hand against their city rivals going into Hampden this weekend.
He said: “Obviously Celtic have the upper hand at the moment, victories give you that, they give you confidence and self belief. I think Rangers have some decent players but they just seem to falter at the big moments.
“Celtic at the moment are flying and Rangers just don’t seem to be able to nail them down at all.”