2022 Market Week – Europe Calling

2023 will force everyone to think it through before composing their rosters. In the end, the World Cup break will force the J1 and J2 to end sooner than later – by mid-November, everything should be done –, while J3 will go until the end of the month. This without thinking that next year will feature the AFC Asian Cup breaking the season in halves and the possible addition of one or two more teams within the pro-world.

This will inevitably impact the Winter transfer market window as well, with clubs that will have to move fast and surgically to fix their problems. But whether you’re in a relegation dogfight or just thinking about how you can get to the top of your league, there will be many, many movements throughout the full Japanese football ladder.

That’s what we’re gonna talk about in “Market Week”, a three-day festival over possible moves, why they should happen, and the players to watch out for next Winter. The third and last part of this special concerns who might be ready for a European chance, since January will be a good time to reflect on a possible jump to the Old Continent after the World Cup.

Many players are to be watched for upcoming moves and we picked other six players who might be on their way to salute the J. League. No Motoki Hasegawa here, but just because we have already mentioned him.

  • Yuki Kakita
    Kashima Antlers (on loan at Sagan Tosu)
    Striker / Age: 25

The story so far: An Antlers prodigy, Kakita reached his 6th (SIXTH!) season on loan from Antlers. He spent three in Kanazawa, two in Tokushima, and the last one at Sagan. Antlers never brought him back.

Why go to Europe? Because it’s pointless to run around in circles. Kakita has shown in every adventure to be a proper asset. Even this year, with Tosu, he found his space to shine, and he deserves more recognition.

Possible destination: We would be curious to see him in Austria, maybe partnering with Keito Nakamura at LASK Linz (as long as Nakamura will stay there: we have some doubts, given his recent form).

  • Tsukasa Morishima
    Sanfrecce Hiroshima
    Offensive midfielder / Age: 25

The story so far: Morishima has featured within Sanfrecce’s first team since 2016, but the last two years saw him take the no. 10, many responsibilities and play to a level never witnessed before.

Why go to Europe? Just like Mitoma in 2020, Mitsuta would probably another year to assess his progress. Then Morishima would be free to go, ready to make the leap towards an interesting championship.

Possible destination: We know how the Celtic suggestion has been more fantasy football than reality, but we can see Furuhashi leaving in the Summer. If the Bhoys will need another Japanese addition to the offensive department, Morishima seems an excellent call.

  • Daiki Suga
    Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo
    Wingback / Age: 24

The story so far: Born in Hokkaido, raised by Consadole, living and breathing Sapporo. Suga debuted when Consadole were still in J2, and he never left his starting spot.

Why go to Europe? To our knowledge, he reminded us a bit of Yuto Nagatomo, although he plays as a wing-back and not as a side-back. And Nagatomo left Japan at 24 years old, the same current age as Suga right now.

Possible destination: It might be a strange destination, but Switzerland and the Swiss Super League could be interesting. Grasshopper have already welcomed Seko and Kawabe, another Japanese could be helpful.

  • Yasuto Wakizaka
    Kawasaki Frontale
    Midfielder / Age: 27

The story so far: Already 27, Wakizaka has become more and more fundamental. When Kengo Nakamura retired in 2020, the midfielder took the no. 14 in a sort of rite of passage. It was well-placed: he’s been nothing short of fantastic.

Why go to Europe? Kaito Tachibanada seemed on his way to Germany, but he stayed. Frontale can’t afford to lose another piece, but not witnessing Wakizaka in Europe would be a dreadful delict to football-neutral fans in Europe.

Possible destination: Netherlands, for sure. In the land of 4-3-3 and creative midfielders, Wakizaka could surely have a use, a proper purpose, even in the biggest teams (e.g. Feyenoord).

  • Shuto Machino
    Shonan Bellmare
    Striker / Age: 23

The story so far: To us, it looks incredible that Machino was playing in J3 three years ago and this Summer featured in the EAFF E-1 Championship with Japan, being called as well with Japan in the last int’l break. He deserved that.

Why go to Europe? His success and performances with Shonan have been great, but we don’t see Bellmare surviving in the long run. And rather than just going back to Yokohama to not being a sure starter, better to try his luck in Europe.

Possible destination: Belgium would be nice. Yuma Suzuki showed how good Japanese striker can be, and we’re sure Ayase Ueda will play a role as well this season. Machino could be another piece of the puzzle.

  • Yoshio Koizumi
    Urawa Red Diamonds
    Offensive midfielder / Age: 25

The story so far: One of the most exciting players in J1 right now. Capable of the right play out of the blue, Koizumi has joined Urawa in 2021 and he’s already won an Emperor’s Cup.

Why go to Europe? He’ll turn 26 tomorrow. Reds are full of creative players and forwards. Koizumi could be decisive somewhere else, and he’s got the quality to emerge in a second-tier championship.

Possible destination: Honestly, Greece has let go of Shinji Kagawa and they’re a country that could invest more in Japanese players. Seeing Koizumi with PAOK or Panathinaikos would be amazing.

Nevertheless, we’ve seen how some European players have moved to Japan in the last year. We can only wish more could take that decision, and we’d like to expand to the rest of the world as well. We try to recommend six who could represent solid profiles in that sense, three from Europe and three from the rest of the world.

  • Óscar Duarte
    Al-Wehda / CRC
    Center-back / Age: 33

The story so far: Duarte was actually born in Nicaragua, but he played for Saprissa and then moved to Europe. 2014 FIFA World Cup was his awakening since he then played six years in LaLiga before joining Al-Wahda this Summer.

Why go to Japan? The contract with the Saudi club could go on, but having a proper, foreign center-back would leave a mark as well on Japanese forwards. And every good foreign is a step forward for Japanese football.

Possible destination: FC Tokyo have been shaky within the center-back department. Morishige is getting older, Trevisan barely played; Kimoto is half a CB, half a DM. Okazaki and Kimura might need more time to emerge.

Last Costa Rican in J. League: Danny Carvajal is still playing for FC Ryukyu in J2, where he’s been since 2018.

  • Zsolt Nagy
    Puskas Akadémia / HUN
    Left midfielder / Age: 29

The story so far: He found his way into the national team after a long career, which started when he was just 17. Now he’s 29 and he’s the captain of Puskas Akadémia, for which he played since 2013.

Why go to Japan? Players from Eastern Europe have always populated J. League and Hungary hasn’t been that huge in J1.

Possible destination: Yokohama FC are close to coming up and they could use an upgrade on that side of the pitch.

Last Hungarian in J. League: No Hungarian has ever played in J. League.

  • Omar Elabdellaoui
    Free agent / NOR
    Side back, side midfielder / Age: 30

The story so far: Elabdellaoui grew up in the Man City academy, only to be loaned to a bunch of clubs. He spent most of his years in Greece with Olympiacos, before joining Galatasaray in 2020. He’s now a free agent.

Why go to Japan? A 30 years-old European player, with int’l experience and a few caps with the Norwegian national team? J. League teams don’t get this kind of chance every day (although his medical state could be a concern).

Possible destination: I can see Sanfrecce Hiroshima needing a player like this. Fujii and Higashi have been great, but Kashiwa is getting older, and an expert player would help.

Last Norwegian in J. League: Tarik Elyounoussi has been with Shonan Bellmare since 2020, while Mushaga Bakenga joined Tokushima Vortis in the Summer of 2021.

  • Edu Vargas
    Atlético Mineiro / CHL
    Striker / Age: 32

The story so far: Vargas gave his best for the national team, where he’s been the second all-time top-scorer and was instrumental to win two Copa América editions. His club career was a continuous search for a solid environment, which he mostly found at Universidad de Chile when he was young and maybe now with Atlético Mineiro.

Why go to Japan? His contract runs until 2024, but his time in Brazil hasn’t been the shiniest of his career. Having him in Japan would be a massive opportunity for J. League to expand in South America.

Possible destination: Kyoto Sanga would really need a player like this. Vargas hasn’t scored that much in the last seasons, but Utaka is turning 39 years old in 2023.

Last Chilean in J. League: Byron Vásquez is currently playing for Tokyo Verdy in J2 and he had a massive season with the green side of the capital.

  • Mykola Matviyenko
    Shakhtar Donetsk / UKR
    Center-back, left-back / Age: 26

The story so far: Born in 1996, Matviyenko spent his whole career being part of Shakhtar. He played twice on loan, but he mostly featured for the Donetsk-based side, being also a part of the Ukrainian national team.

Why go to Japan? Matviyenko has been in Donetsk his whole life, but the situation right now isn’t the best available and Shakhtar could struggle in the years to come, given the War pending on Ukraine.

Possible destination: Urawa, for sure. Rodriguez needs a good partner for Scholz and their left-back situation is shaky at best (Akimoto isn’t one and Ohata has been solid, but he’s really young for certain stages).

Last Ukranian in J. League: Serhiy Skachenko played for Sanfrecce Hiroshima and scored a couple of goals in 2001.

  • Youssef Msakni
    Al Arabi / TUN
    Offensive midfielder / Age: 31

The story so far: He’s been one of the most spectacular players in the last decade of African football. So many gems around the African Cup of Nations.

Why go to Japan? Msakni played just six months in Europe, for Eupen in Belgium. He always stayed between Tunisia and Qatar. Time for something new after the World Cup?

Possible destination: Last year, Nagoya Grampus have lost that talisman called Gabriel Xavier. Besides Mateus and sometimes Keiya Sento, not so much excitement from them. Msakni could help them out.

Last Tunisian in J. League: Lassad Nouioui had two brief appearances for FC Tokyo just before retiring.

And that’s a wrap! “Market Week” already had two episodes available (Part 1 & Part 2), but we’ll surely have plenty of chances to talk about several players and their future throughout the next Winter. Thanks for your attention!


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