Keisuke Honda has long been linked with a move to the English Premier League. Having performed admirably at the recent Confederations Cup and coming to the end of his current contract, it may be that British audiences are getting a lot more familiar with the Japanese playmaker.
Naturally, the summer brings with it reams of speculation and intrigue concerning the Premier League teams and their transfer activity. Already a number of clubs have spent big money and recruited players who look poised to make a difference in the coming year, but fans can be sure that the coming months will be riddled with further sales and purchases.
The Confederations Cup provided a prime opportunity for EPL teams to examine their prospective acquisitions and to gauge the quality of some of their targets in an international environment.
Some of the tournament’s stars have already reaped the rewards of some impressive outings over in Brazil.
Selecao midfielder Paulinho earned a move to London giants Tottenham Hotspur in the immediate aftermath of the competition, while a number of clubs look to offer John Obi Mikel an escape route from Chelsea after his impressive performances for Nigeria, according to The Daily Mail.
Keisuke Honda could be another to benefit from some sterling displays.
The midfielder’s CSKA Moscow contract expires at the turn of the year and so while he is not a free agent this summer, the Russian side may well be keen to cut their losses and cash in on the playmaker over the coming months. An immediate move would allow him to integrate into a side in time for the season’s start rather than arrive in January and face the problems of adaptation that can accompany moves at that time of the year.
Honda is now 27 and, having been in Russia since 2010, it may well be the ideal time to head for pastures new and enjoy the finest years of his career in one of the world’s major leagues.
During the Confederations Cup, he was a central part of a side that won many admirers, but overall struggled to compete with their exalted opposition. The Blue Samurai lost three out of three, falling to defeats against Brazil, Italy and Mexico.
Despite their early elimination, Honda wasn’t tarnished by the failings of his teammates and set himself apart in composed and exhilarating counterpoint to his teammates.
His class may well have convinced those that have previously charted his progress that the time is right to bring the playmaker to England, while managers who hadn’t previously admired his capabilities will surely have been alerted to his myriad of talents.
So what did Honda display to the watching world? Which of his many skills will have convinced onlookers that he can make a difference to a Premier League side?
As identified by Goal, Honda showed a keen understanding with his Japanese teammates over the three games. His teamwork was on display time and time again as he supported and interacted with the likes of Yasuhito Endo and Shinji Kagawa. His movement and off-the-ball work was exceptional, and he repeatedly worked tirelessly to create space amidst elite defences in order for his team to operate.
It was no coincidence that Japan, even in defeat, managed to put three past the notoriously stingy Italian defence.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s decision to install Honda as the side’s key playmaker has played to the superstar’s strengths. His own performances have improved, and he has begun to have a major influence on those operating around him in the team. Honda has come into his own and all the Blue Samurai have benefitted.
With 45 caps for the national side, Honda is an experienced player who also has had playing time in the Champions League. He could add guile, nous and composure to a Premier League midfield lacking in personality or introduce that extra touch of class to a side needing something special to break through staunch EPL defences.
As well as being a threat in open play, Honda can also be a valuable asset for a team from set pieces. Against Italy, he spanked a delicious free kick past legendary stopper Gianluigi Buffon—a strike as sweet as any parallel efforts by Neymar, Diego Forlan or Alessandro Diamanti.
Honda’s versatility would also be a fine asset for an EPL side. He is capable of playing anywhere across the midfield and can also operate up front, as a deep-lying forward or as a false nine. Wherever he operates, the player’s pace and flair would add an extra dimension to a midfield and pose a fresh threat to opposition defences.
Like his compatriot Kagawa, Honda is a scoring creator, a player who has an eye for a goal as well as knowing how to create for those around him.
After his initial move to Europe, to Dutch side VVV Venlo in January 2008, Honda—named club captain despite being in his early 20s—was instrumental in securing promotion for the side. He scored 16 goals as the team made an instant return to the Eredivisie.
At the 2010 World Cup, he also had his scoring boots with him and bagged two crucial goals during Japan’s group stage games, operating effectively as a false nine.
While AC Milan are favourites to sign the East Asian superstar according to Sky Sports, a number of Premier League teams have been linked with Honda. Don’t be surprised to see any one of these teams make their reported interest a concrete reality in the coming weeks and months.
David Moyes was reportedly a fan of the player while at previous club Everton. Now at Manchester United, Moyes will have been impressed by Honda’s on-field interaction with current Red Devil Shinji Kagawa.
However, United already have a plethora of players capable of playing up-front or as a deep-lying forward, and they are unlikely to recruit heavily in these positions.
Everton retain their interest, however, and Honda’s style and composure would surely appeal to incoming Toffees boss Roberto Martinez. According to talkSPORT, the Spaniard sent scouts to Brazil to keep tabs on the playmaker’s progress.
The Sun also indicated that North London sides Arsenal and Tottenham have been linked with the player, although the latter, in particular, are another side who can already boast a number of attacking midfielders.
Liverpool and Porto have also been associated with his signature.
Don’t be surprised if Milan put pen to paper and snare the popular playmaker. The side have a status which would appeal to the player, who would doubtless add the creativity and guile that has been missing with Kevin-Prince Boateng playing at the pinnacle of the midfield.
If it is the Premier League, rather than the San Siro, that is part of the player’s destiny, expect Honda to make a major impact on the green, green grass of England. He could certainly be a major asset for somebody.
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