Turning Japanese

You already know that Takashi Usami will join Bayern on loan in mid-July (if you don’t, follow me on Twitter and pay some attention to the small transfer list on the right). Still, what do we really know about the young man from Nagaokakyo? Let’s take a closer look at him. More after the jump.

Once again I’m proud to announce a guest appearance on Red Robbery. Not so long ago we had the great Paul Harper telling us a bit about Dale Jennings, now we have another expert introducing a rather unknown signing: Oliver Haenlein, the man behind everydayjleague.com, a brilliant blog about Japanese football, is here to share his thoughts about Bayern’s first Japanese player. You can (and should) follow Oliver on Twitter.

Young Japanese attacking player Takashi Usami is almost certainly Japan’s one to watch at the moment. The 19-year-old won the J-League young player of the year last season with Gamba Osaka, and Usami has continued to impress this campaign, scoring three goals from midfield in 13 games. The talented Gamba number 11 made his debut at the tender age 17, a club record, and received his first international call up earlier this year.

The wunderkind played with local youth club Nagaokakyo S.S. until 2005, a set-up that also produced La Liga and RCD Mallorca’s Akihiro Ienaga. He then entered the Gamba Osaka youth system, before being promoted to the first-team squad in 2009.

Usami caught the eye of former Bayern boss Louis Van Gaal and new manager Jupp Heynckes has brought him to the German giants on a one-year loan deal, starting later this month. The teenager said that he is excited about the big move: “Robben, Ribery, Müller… so many other great players! It will be a great experience to be with them. I will have to fight to get a spot in the team with such team-mates, but I will do my best to earn the trust of everybody.”

So what can Bayern fans expect from Usami? It is often difficult to predict how a Japanese player will fare in Europe, but in recent years a number of the Samurai Blue’s finest have made a massive contribution at the highest level. Shinji Kagawa, Makoto Hasebe and Atsuto Uchida have become indispensable players in the Bundesliga, while Yuto Nagatomo was one of Inter’s top players last season. Usami is still very young, and the main question marks hover around his physique – he is slight of build and at 1.78 metres he is by no means a tall player. However, Usami’s strengths are irrelevant to body type, his technical ability and flair should make him an attribute to any side. Shinji Kagawa is a considerably smaller player and we all saw what he achieved at Dortmund in their previous campaign. Usami usually plays in wide positions, either in attacking midfield or on the side of a front three. Generally deployed on the left, he likes to run with the ball and possesses quick feet and magical skill. The youngster has an eye for a pass and can curl the ball from distance in a Beckham-esque manner, meaning he not only creates but score as well.

Usami has expressed his determination to improve as much as possible in Bavaria and try hard to adapt to German culture. The Kyoto-born starlet may not feature as frequently as he might like at the Allianz Arena, but there is an option to make the deal permanent for Bayern. If Heynckes is satisfied with his development and potential, Usami may find that he will not be packing his bags for a return flight next year.

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