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 Makélélé 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.
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 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 could be attributed to the sudden outflow of Japan’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 Germany’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.
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 €350,000, achieved a good deal of success with Kagawa playing an integral role, and then sold him for a fee of around €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 Kagawa’s example is anything to go by, German clubs are in for a treat from Japan for the next few years.
What’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.
Stuttgart’s duo of Shinji Okazaki and Gotoku Sakai will also be expected to build on their solid debut seasons. Okazaki’s goal scoring prowess will be most important in Die Schwaben’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 Hannover’s Hiroki Sakai, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Takashi Inui and Nuremberg’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.