Following on from my previous article looking at the current Japanese players in the Premier League (Japan Rising?) this article will look at some of the players who could make their way to these shores in the future. No less a manager than Arsene Wenger has recently highlighted Japan as a new emerging market for talent, though given some of Mr. Wenger’s recent acquisitions perhaps this isn’t quite the compliment it once was.
The number of Japanese players plying their trade in Europe, particularly Germany and Holland, has increased significantly in the last few years with over 20 players current playing in Europe from Serie A to the Russian Premier League. Some have already made their way to the Premier League but there are plenty more who have the talent to move in the future. The progress of the current crop of Japanese players in the Premier League may well determine whether clubs are willing to gamble on recruiting more of their compatriots in the next few years. Without further ado, here are some of the standout performers.
Yuto Nagatomo (26) – Inter Milan
Pacy full back can play right or left. Loves to get forward and enjoys a good marauding run. Good touch and lots of energy. Known for his attacking capabilities rather than his defensive ability. Very small, a bit like Roberto Carlos but not quite as powerful. Would be good for a lot of teams though most top teams seem relatively well covered at full back and he is unlikely to move away from Inter for anything less.
All touches from match vs Hellas Verona this season,
Keisuke Honda (26) – CSKA Moscow
Solid attacking midfielder and lynch pin of Japan’s attack, ahead of the now more well known Shinji Kagawa. Has the strength to shield and vision to play the right pass. Good technical ability, dead ball skills and not a bad shooter either. There are some question marks as to whether he would be as effective in a more competitive league. If he can adapt, would be a good player to have on most squads though probably not quite a starter for the top 6 teams.
Previous transfer windows have linked him to Lazio and Liverpool.
This season’s highlights
Touches in match against Amkar Perm this season.
Takashi Inui (24) – Frankfurt
A tricky attacking midfielder and an exciting talent. It would be over the top to compare him to Messi but the way he uses his low center of gravity to jink and dink his way around much larger players is a joy to watch. Has a decent shot and a pretty handy turn of pace as well. That said he is very small and light weight and it’s difficult to say how well he would adapt to the Premier League. The ability is there, the strength may not be. Would be a decent gamble for a mid/low table club in need of some creativity.
All touches in match against Wolfsburg this season
Hiroshi Kiyotake (23) – Nuremberg
A passing attacking midfielder. Great technique and dead ball ability. Has the ability to play balls that others can’t see. Somewhat reminiscent of David Silva but not quite the same dribbling skills or ability to hold on to the ball. Similar build to Inui which could hold him back. Would be a gamble again because of his size but could pay off handsomely.
All touches from a game this season vs Dortmund.
Eiji Kawashima (29) – Standard Liege
Was at times Japan’s hero in the 2010 World Cup and has secured his position as Japan’s number 1 goalkeeper. Became Belgian side Lierse’s club captain after 1 year at the club. Athletic and brave, Kawashima would be a decent bet for somebody like Southampton to add to their Japanese contingent as they are struggling to field a decent goalkeeper. Thats said, the Premier League will be a big step up from the Belgian league.
Shinji Okazaki, Striker/Winger – Stuttgart
Takashi Usami, Winger/Attacking Midfielder – Hoffenheim
Makoto Hasebe, Defensive Midfielder – Wolfsburg
Atsuto Uchida, Right Back, Schalke 04