Asia's stars wait in the wings

While the summer transfer window has been quiet, the next few months promise to be anything but for Asian talent.

    Asia's stars wait in the wings
    CSKA Moscow star Keisuke Honda has been a target of Serie A giants AC Milan all summer [GETTY]

    Don’t let the last few frenzied days fool you - it has been a relatively quiet summer of big transfers. And it has been especially quiet with regard to Asian players, of which Japan and South Korea make up the majority, heading to the big leagues. Last summer saw Shinji Kagawa move to Manchester United, the year before there was the ill-fated Arsenal signing of Park Chu-young and the weeks and months following the 2010 World Cup were busy ones.

    The World Cup should shoulder some of the blame. It can take time for even the biggest stars from the east to settle in the west. Minutes on the pitch can be hard to come by in the beginning and with Brazil 2014 on the horizon, it is perhaps safer to wait until the tournament is finished before seeking pastures new.

    "You cannot expect busy transfer summers every year," Kimi Kinohara, a Japanese football journalist, told Al Jazeera.

    "It could be because the World Cup is approaching. The players need a place to settle and work on their game and opt for not moving."

    At the moment Japanese players are popular but the national team struggled a little in the global spotlight early in the summer. 

    "Japan didn’t do well enough at the Confederations Cup enough to draw attention from clubs in Europe. A busy summer can often come after the World Cup."

    There is still time – not a lot but a little – for the move that everyone has been waiting for to finally happen. A number of transfer windows have come and gone but the talented Keisuke Honda has remained at CSKA Moscow. A move to AC Milan is almost certain but the Italian giants are not the first to find dealing with wealthy Russian teams a frustrating experience.

    August is looking tough but as Honda’s contract ends in December, January will be a different story.

    "Honda can find a new place to play in Milan if the clubs can sort out the transfer issue soon, and I hope that happens for him so that he can develop his game and his future," said Kinohara.

    "If Shinji Kagawa and Honda have a good season then it will be good news for Japanese football particularly for the 2014 World Cup."

    With the lack of movement, most Japanese stars in Europe will focus on showing what they can do at existing clubs.

    "Kagawa will be playing his second season at Manchester United but under a new manager, which can bring him a new situation to cope with. He needs to fit in to the team and the concept of his new manager there. I also hope that Hiroshi Kiyotake and Shinji Okazaki can have a good season at Nuremberg and Mainz, respectively. They know their league and their team-mates, which is an advantage for them to play this season."

    Surprise return

    Park Ji-sung has enjoyed an impressive return to Dutch football [EPA]

    If Honda is keen to retreat from Moscow, it is probably fair to say that Park Ji-sung was equally enthusiastic about leaving London behind.

    One of the surprise moves of the 2012 summer saw the Korean join QPR from Manchester United.

    Equally unexpected was his recent return to PSV Eindhoven. In the stroke of a pen, the 32 year-old moved from the Championship to the Champions League, impressing in his second debut for the club against AC Milan in qualification for the main event.

    "I'm sure this season must be much better than the last season." Seo Hyung-wook, television commentator for Korean broadcaster MBC and CEO of Footballist, told Al Jazeera.

    "Park doesn't have to try hard to adjust to Dutch life. He can score a number of goals in the domestic league. Moreover, PSV have qualified for a European tournament - at least the Europa League- which means more games and more opportunities."

    The biggest Asian deal of the summer saw Son Heung-min leave Hamburg for Bayer Leverkusen in a deal worth $15 million. The 20 year-old attacker was one of the stars of the Bundesliga last season and attracted interest from Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

    "I think it's the best choice for him," said Seo.

    "Bayer Leverkusen have qualified for the Champions League and don’t have a big squad. It means that Son will get more playing time and experience at the highest level."

    As well as Son, Seo expects big things from Koo Ja-cheol this season. The captain of Korea’s 2012 Olympic bronze-medal winning team suffered from injuries last season but is ready to show Wolfsburg fans what he can do.

    "Like Son, Koo has experienced many games in the last three years and is now rated by fans and coaches. If these players are free from injury, they should play often and really show what they can do."

    So while the summer has been quiet, the next few months promise to be anything but.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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