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Keisuke Honda: Why Moyes Wants The Japan Star Who Keeps Kagawa Out Of The Team

by Ben Maxwell
18 March 2013 10 Comments

Everton have been linked with a move for the man from the land of the rising sun. Here's the lowdown on the CSKA Moscow man who keeps Shinji Kagawa out of the Japan team...

Everton are set to hold talks with CSKA Moscow attacker Keisuke Honda over a pre-contract deal. The 26-year-old Japan international’s deal with the Russians expires this summer and he will not sign a new contract. But is the silky-skilled Japanese star, capable of playing anywhere across the midfield or as a ‘false nine,’ ready for the step-up to the Premier League, and where would he fit into David Moyes’ system? Well, that’s why I’m here, to answer those questions so you don’t have to.

Honda burst onto the J.League scene as an 18 year old in 2005 with Nagoya Grampus - the former club of Arsene Wenger and Gary Lineker of course, and the side currently managed by Dragan Stojkovic - and after three full J1 seasons of displaying his pace and flair in Nagoya few were surprised when the confident youngster pursued a move to Europe.

He transferred to Eredivisie side VVV Venlo in January 2008, and his move abroad at just 21 set the precedent for other Japanese players of his generation like Shinji Kagawa and Hiroshi Kiyotake to make their moves before entering their primes.

Though his arrival was unable to prevent VVV’s relegation to the Eerste Divisie, he was named club captain at the start of the 2008-09 campaign and his 16 goals played a major part in their immediate promotion back to the Dutch top flight.

Those 16 goals also helped catch the eye of some bigger clubs across Europe, and midway through the 2009-10 season Honda made a somewhat surprising move to Russia to join CSKA Moscow, becoming the first Japanese player to sign for a Russian first division side.

After announcing his arrival to CSKA supporters with the winner in the Champions League last 16 second leg against Sevilla in March 2010, Honda quickly became an important cog in the Moscow club’s attacking armoury, and his seven goals in 19 games this season have helped fire CSKA two points clear at the top of the Russian Premier League, which is now on its three month winter break.


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After Honda arrived back in Japan on Saturday several national sports newspapers wasted no time speculating on a potential move next month, and Liverpool were prominently mentioned, along with Italian giants Inter and Lazio, and other clubs including Porto. Now, it seems a move to Everton is looking more likely.

Throughout his European club career Honda’s versatility and goalscoring ability have seen his stock rise considerably, but his displays for the Japanese national team, in particular at the 2010 World Cup, enhanced his reputation on a wider scale, and his two goals in the group stage playing in the false nine role proved that he was capable of doing the business on the biggest stage.

After Alberto Zaccheroni took over as manager of Japan after the World Cup he installed Honda as his key attacking playmaker ‘in the hole’ behind a main striker, and his excellent displays throughout Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup have seen him keep Kagawa, whose popularity in the country has soared since his move to Manchester United, out of his favoured position.

So, to where Honda might fit in at Goodison Park. As mentioned above, his versatility would make him a valuable addition to the Everton squad, and I could see him being effective at the top of David Moyes’ midfield, where his quality on the ball and range of passing would mesh perfectly with Moyes’ philosophy.

He’d also be just as capable of taking on the responsibility of leading the line whenever Jelavic is injured or unavailable. Honda has little experience in the latter role for CSKA, but he’s shown a genuine propensity for the position at international level.

One potential stumbling block might be CSKA’s asking price, with Everton unlikely to get any change from a bid of around £12 million, but the club might be able to dig deep enough, to make the move happen next month.

Honda has progressed significantly throughout his time in both Holland and Russia, looks ready for the next step in his career, and if he is to make a move to England he’ll be ready to come straight in and be an important player for Everton. There might be some pessimism amongst the hardcore Everton support that a Japanese player would only be signed to sell t-shirts, but in Honda they’d be getting the cream of the crop when it comes to Asian footballers, a well-rounded professional with skill, flair, and most importantly, buckets of experience in Europe under his belt.

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gideon 1:29 pm, 17-Dec-2012

We need someone who can the ball in the back of the net.

Chalmers 2:54 pm, 17-Dec-2012

I don't know if the writer of this has studied Liverpool at play? We don't need "playmakers". We have a surfeit of them! Did he watch the Villa game? The movement up the field was crisp and fluid THEN you hit the final third of the park and it seems nobody has any talent in doing what remains! - i.e. Getting the damned ball in the back of the net. So we need to buy Honda and get the ball up there a little bit classier to make up for the continuing fact that we can't SCORE????? We need strikers ASAP before us fans forget what a striker actually looks like!

I'll buy a season ticket if we buy Honda, and I live in Plymouth! 4:36 pm, 11-Jan-2013

Well if we had attacking midfielders who could pitch in a goal 1 in every 3 games then that would help surely!? Honda is also going to create QUALITY chances from midfield, not half chances. Any half=decent team can pass their way up the pitch, it's when the play is compressed in the final 3rd of the pitch where you need that little bit of extra guile and accuity of execution...Honda has guile in buckets! He can also be there to share his trickery with the excellent youth players we'll have coming through in next few years!...(and yes, it will sell shirts!) WIN WIN WIN!!!

I'll buy a season ticket if we buy Honda, and I live in Plymouth! 4:43 pm, 11-Jan-2013

^plus it shows aspiration to buy known quality goods, what we have so often is like speculation as opposed to investment, in that we buy young unproven players and hope they improve alot more than they cost. This is like betting on an unexposed horse at Ascot, or buying battered stocks instead of safer, but less profitable investments! If Honda flops then it will be blamed on premiership-style football and other European leagues will happily take the risk on him BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN EXPOSED AND HE IS GOOD, NO QUESTION!

Bill 12:39 pm, 4-Mar-2013

If I read the article right, his contract expires in the summer and he isn't going to sign a new one he there fore becomes a free agent, so why would we have to pay £12M.

Danny Salford red 1:09 pm, 4-Mar-2013

Interesting piece considering he doesn't keep Kagawa out of the Japan team at all and they play together

d_nose_ok 1:27 pm, 4-Mar-2013

We could do with Honda for both his skills and his posterboy image in the East. It's about time we had a proper foothold out there. We may be a football club, but we're a business - bottom line.

Guinness 1:13 am, 8-Mar-2013

@Bill, his contract expires in Dec 2013 so he'd still be a CSKA player during the Summer window. Thus, we'd have to pay them for him or wait till the Jan 2014 to get him for free, IF we have a pre-arranged contract/deal with him. Honda has proven himself everywhere he's played and his flexibility are being able to play various positions would make him an asset to the club. I wouldn't mind seeing him a red kit, which would probably sell like crazy in Japan/Asia, but at the right price. The good thing is CSKA knows he wants to leave so they'll take a discounted price instead of getting nothing when his contract expires.

DAMONYETGILA 1:36 pm, 12-Mar-2013

Nic 10:40 am, 19-Mar-2013

Barely afford a reliant robin

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