Joe Hart lavished praise on Kyogo Furuhashi as he described his delight about the Japan striker’s decision to extend his time at Celtic.
The 28-year-old attacker has scored 54 goals in 83 games since signing from Vissel Kobe in 2021 to become a huge fans’ favourite at Parkhead and is now tied to the treble winners until 2027 after signing a new four-year deal earlier in the week.
Speaking at Lennoxtown, where he was promoting James Forrest’s testimonial match against LaLiga side Athletic Bilbao next month, veteran goalkeeper Hart said of Furuhashi’s new contract: “It’s huge, what a great bit of news that is.
“I love him as a person, he’s a beautiful person and he’s an exceptional footballer.
“He has been brilliant since he came in and really shone for us last year in big moments and he really sets the tone for a high-pressing, exciting football team.
“He’s loved here. And obviously he’s felt that because he’s wanted to commit a real important time in his career to this club and we appreciate that.
“I think the statement of the club is that if you want to be here and you’re playing well then you’re welcome. And if you don’t, then we’ll look for someone who does.”
Hart is also impressed by new boss Brendan Rodgers, who has returned to Celtic for a second time as boss after Ange Postecoglou departed for Tottenham.
He said: “We’ve been we’ve only been together a couple of days now but you know he’s an exceptional guy.
“I’ve had run-ins in the past with him as an opponent and actually bumped into him a few times on holiday.
“He is a lovely person first and foremost, which is very important, and a very successful manager with huge drive.
“He laid it on the line, he actually stood here in front of us and let us know how proud he was with what we did last year, but that was last year.
“And we now need to build on it and try and improve and push each other.”
Hart was, perhaps unsurprisingly, less expansive when asked about friend and former England team-mate Jack Butland, who joined Old Firm rivals Rangers from Crystal Palace.
The 36-year-old former Manchester City goalkeeper, who signed for Celtic in 2021, said: “Good move for him. Obviously I go way back with Jack.
“I’m very respectful of the two clubs that we play for so I’m not really going to go into it but I’m happy that he’s found a home.
“I have spoken to him. We’re going to we share the same city but, as I say, I’ve got a lot of respect for what goes on between the two clubs and I’m sure he’s going to go and do his thing and I’ll try and do mine.”
The highly-decorated Forrest came through the youth ranks at Celtic before making his first team debut in 2010.
Hart said: “I’ve not been on the journey with James, but I’ve certainly shared a dressing room with him for the last two years and you wouldn’t think that this guy is the guy that is one of the most decorated and one of the most successful (at Celtic) – a quadruple treble winner right?
“He’s a superb person, someone that I’ve loved sharing the dressing room with.
“What a moment for himself and his family and I really hope I’m going to be a part of it. It’ll be a great night.”