After Manchester City were ran ragged by Yokohama FC Marinos during a pre-season friendly in summer 2019, Raheem Sterling was left rubbing his eyes in disbelief.
The way their Japanese opponents built play from the edge of their own area – boldly going where most teams fear to tread against the Premier League giants – stunned the City winger.
But those who had followed Ange Postecoglou’s coaching career from Australia to Asia, via a brief spell in his Greek homeland, won’t have been surprised by the way the Marinos passed the ball with such incision and authority in the face of the relentless high press of arguably world football’s greatest club side.
“They’re probably one of the best teams I’ve seen play out from the back – and they played some great football. It was a great test for us,” Sterling said at full-time, via The World Game.
Postecoglou, influenced as he is by Johan Cruyff’s ‘total football’ principles, prides himself on a possession-heavy game plan, one that requires his goalkeeper to be as comfortable with his feet as he is with his hands.
Celtic eyeing Postecoglu favourite Mat Ryan
And while Scott Bain notably improved his distribution skills during John Kennedy’s spell as caretaker manager of the Glasgow giants, it was no surprise to see Celtic linked with a new shot-stopper this week – one Postecoglou knows and trusts from his successful spell in charge of the Australian national team.
“(Postecoglou) valued me as an important part of the team. Everyone bought into his philosophy,” Mat Ryan told Omnisport in 2017 having replaced the legendary Mark Schwarzer as Australia’s first-choice glovesman.
“(Postecoglou) wanted to change the perception that Australia isn’t a football nation, that we can play attractive football. He didn’t fear any opposition, whether it was Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Germany or Holland.
“We went in with a similar approach, not changing philosophy. The fear-factor was evident under Ange, no excuses.”
Ryan is great with the ball at his feet
Although Ryan lost his place between the sticks at Brighton and Hove Albion, joining Arsenal on loan in the January transfer window, some at the Amex believe the 29-year-old is better with the ball at his feet than the man who replaced him in Graham Potter’s starting XI, Spain’s Robert Sanchez.
With just one year left on his contract, the Seagulls are unlikely to stand in Ryan’s way should Celtic come knocking.
And while the arrival of Brighton’s back-up goalkeeper is unlikely to cause much of a stir north of the border, it would be fitting if Ryan became the first signing of the Postecoglou era.
Because no-one epitomises the Celtic manager’s tactical blueprint quite like a goalkeeper renowned for his passing range as well as his shot-stopping skills.