The influx of Japanese players to the Bundesliga has been rapidly growing. TheHardTackle analyses this mass exodus from the point of view of both nations.

Italy and South America have been known for years to have had a strong understanding in the world of football. The Serie A has been home to a number of South American players, more than any other league in Europe. It was through this understanding that the Oriundi were born. Their strong involvement in the brilliance of Italian football is no mystery, with the likes of Mauro Camoranesi, Michele Andreolo and Raimundo Orsi having won World Cup titles with the Italian national team.

In the more recent past, France and England seem to have built a similar understanding. Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry and Claude MakAi??lAi??lAi?? are just a few of the extremely successful Frenchmen to have graced the Premier League with their presence. The only difference in England has been that the French players have continued to play for their homeland, unlike the Oriundi in Italy. But the existence of South Americans in Italy who chose to play for their motherland cannot be ignored. Thus, the presence of these mutual understandings between two countries has been around for a long time.

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Germany

The first of many to come

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One normally associates South East Asia with England when considering this sort of relationship, but this is a misconception. Top players from the east may choose to eventually move to the widely followed English league, as Shinji Kagawa just did. But the bond between Germany and Japan, if not the rest of South East Asia, is clearly stronger than that with any other European nation and only seems to be growing with time.

The Japanese Perspective

Japanese club football hasnai??i??t done too well in the last few years, with no club having reached the finals of the AFC Champions League over the last three years. This could be attributed to the sudden outflow of Japanai??i??s top players to Germany. A look at the Japanese national team tells the story. Six out of the twenty-five members in the current squad and five out of eighteen in the Under-23 team are in Germanyai??i??s top division.

Although club football in Japan may not be on the rise, the national team has done commendably at both the continental and international level. They have managed to reach the round of 16 on two occasions in the last three World Cups, an exceptional feat for a team that has qualified for just four World Cups. The AFC Asia Cup has been a favourable hunting ground for them, having won three out of the last four tournaments.

Germany

Can he build on his performances at the Olympics?

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So, is this outflow of players to the Bundesliga a good thing? At the moment, it seems to be working wonders for Japanese football. Their remarkable performance at the Olympics 2012 is proof of this. Bundesliga starlet, Yuki Otsu, has been one of the standout performers at the Olympics and this can surely be attributed to his time spent in Germany. Japanese football seems to be in good hands for now.

The German Perspective

An influx of talent is never really bad for any club/league. With rich competition in the Bundesliga, a move to almost any of the clubs is good for the growth of Japanese players. The only problem for German clubs will be that these players, like Kagawa, may use the Bundesliga as a stepping stone to move to greener pastures like England and Spain. Two brilliant seasons with Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga champions, and Kagawa off to the more lucrative English Premier League.

Is this use of the Bundesliga as a transitional league a bad thing for German clubs? Not really. Take the example of Kagawa again. Dortmund bought the diminutive midfielder from Cerezo Osaka for a minimal fee of ai??i??350,000, achieved a good deal of success with Kagawa playing an integral role, and then sold him for a fee of around ai??i??15m. This is the sort of business that could lie in store for clubs who buy these talented Japanese players and utilize them perfectly.

On the other hand, clubs can get the more loyal kind, like Wolfsburg did with Makoto Hasebe. This way German clubs can bring in players for small sums of money and hope that they can gradually grow into players of top caliber, like in the case of Hasebe. With such small transfer fees at stake, the failure of such players should not put a large dent in the accounts of German clubs.

Just like from the Japanese perspective, the Bundesliga is set to thrive on this relationship. If Kagawaai??i??s example is anything to go by, German clubs are in for a treat from Japan for the next few years.

Whatai??i??s In Store For The Bundesliga This Season?

At the moment, the Bundesliga is set to host ten Japanese players for the 2012-13 season. With the likes of Makoto Hasebe and Atsuto Uchida having impressed over the last few seasons, they will be expected to continue their good work. Both Wolfsburg and Schalke will be hoping that these two can propel them towards European qualification.

Stuttgartai??i??s duo of Shinji Okazaki and Gotoku Sakai will also be expected to build on their solid debut seasons. Okazakiai??i??s goal scoring prowess will be most important in Die Schwabenai??i??s fight for supremacy in the Bundesliga and fans will be hoping that he can produce many more screamers similar to the one he scored against Hannover last season.

The one gem that everyone will keep an eye on is Yuki Otsu. The under-23 international has lit the Olympics ablaze, by helping Japan reach the semi-finals of the tournament with three goals. With Reus having left Gladbach this summer, Otsu might be the perfect replacement for the German sensation.

New signings like Hannoverai??i??s Hiroki Sakai, Eintracht Frankfurtai??i??s Takashi Inui and Nurembergai??i??s Hiroshi Kiyotake will be very keen to impress the Bundesliga fraternity. There will be an added buzz about Kiyotake, since he is from the same club as Kagawa and a very similar player.

Hopefully, this bond between Germany and Japan only strengthens with time and both sides continue to benefit from it. One thing is for sure, the usual entertainment associated with the Bundesliga is a guarantee.

Ai??______

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One Response to “Germany And Japan – A Blossoming Relationship”

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  1. KM, Tokyo says:

    ”Japanese club football hasn’t done too well in the last few years, with no club having reached the finals of the AFC Champions League over the last three years. ”

    This is absolutely meaningless. The ACL is a joke of a competition that nobody in Japan takes seriously. Teams generally are more interested in avoiding injury and maintaining their domestic performance. There are many reasons for this:
    – ACL first place prize is less money than the difference between second and third-place prize money for the domestic title. So if you are a team that thinks it can finish first or second in the J.League, would you take the chance that your ACL participation costs you one place in the J.League? If so, you LOSE money by WINNING the ACL.
    – Travel is absolutely crazy, especially in the knockout phase. A flight from Japan to Qatar, for example, takes 14 hours each way. There is no consideration for teams that are in the ACL – their domestic schedule remains the same. That means that a team has to play in Japan on Saturday, spend an entire day flying to the ACL away game across 6 time zones, play the game on Wednesday, and spend an entire day flying home, then play another domestic game on Saturday (which of course, you will lose as a result of jet lag and exhaustion).

    It is no surprise that this has caused every team ever to reach 1/4 final or higher to end up suffering in the domestic league. In the year Urawa Reds won the ACL, they were 10 points clear in the domestic league with 5 matches to play. They won the ACL title, then proceeded to lose 4 of the 5 league matches and ended up finishing second to Kashima Antlers (their ACL winnings were barely half the amount of money they lost by finishing second, instead of first, in the J.League).

    Three years ago, when Kashima was in the Emperor’s Cup final, a reporter asked Kashima president Oohigashi about their desire to win, and claim a place in the ACL. He replied “Well to be honest we do not want to play in the ACL. I would give the (ACL) spot to another team if I could. But we are not going to lose the Emperor’s Cup final deliberately, just to avoid the ACL.” That says it all in terms of how much the ACL means to J.League teams.

    In actual fact the J.League is in fine shape, and every other league in Asia views it as unquestionably the best league in Asia. Using the ACL as a standard to judge how well the league is doing makes no sense at all. Dont be fooled by the words “Champions League”. The ACL bears no comparison to the UEFA version.