Match Practice Wanted

Takashi Usami is arguably the biggest talent of Japanese football. The problem: he’s not European enough yet. The solution: match practice. What’s usually no problem at all isn’t that simple this time – to find a club that can help such a talented player.

There’s no denying that Takashi Usami is a highly skilled player. He scored 4 goals in 14 matches during his first J-League season, as an 18-year-old, while proving himself in the Asian Champions League. That was enough to join Bayern on loan. And after a short settling in period, he already scored 5 goals in his first 9 matches for Bayern’s second team. It doesn’t stop there, Usami even managed to score a goal (and assist another one) in just 18 minutes during a first team’s cup match against Ingolstadt.

While there’s a massive talent, there’s also a very raw player. Takashi Usami is a rough diamond, he’s only slowly getting used to the physically demanding European football, to having to contribute defensively. That’s why he hasn’t played much for the first team yet, he’d be a liability as soon as the ball is lost.

Of course it would be stupid to blame him for that. At the same age, even Thomas Müller, who already knew German football and didn’t need a personal translator to communicate, only played for the second team, with very similar stats. In 08/09, Müller had an average of 0,47 goals per game. So far, Usami’s average is 0,56 goals (to be fair, against weaker opponents).

What’s the solution? As nice as the thought of letting him gain experience is, it’s doubtful that a fourth-tier league helps a lot when it goes beyond the basics. There’s only so much you can learn from playing against semi-professional teams. Usami has to join a better team.

Now many will say that he’s only loaned, that he can’t join yet another club. While I think that Bayern should use the option to buy, anyway, it doesn’t seem to be a necessity. Granted, FIFA documents aren’t always the most coherent ones, but article 10 paragraph 3 of FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players states the following:

The club that has accepted a player on a loan basis is not entitled to
transfer him to a third club without the written authorisation of the
club that released the player on loan and the player concerned.

Basically, from what I understand, this says that he could join another club on loan if Usami himself and Gamba Osaka agree with that idea. Again, this shouldn’t even have to be discussed because Bayern should sign him on a permanent basis in January, at least in my opinion, feel free to disagree.

That’s not the problem, though. The problem is to find a suitable club. What’s ideal? First, it has to be a BL or at least 2. BL club. Ideally it’s a club with a playing philosophy that’s at least a bit close to Bayern’s (that means preferably not a team that only relies on counter-attacks). But more importantly, the club has to need Usami. It wouldn’t make any sense to ship him to a different city when he doesn’t even play.

What are his prospects to play? I’m analyzing (or, better, ‘analyzing’) each club, ignoring the current top 8 of the Bundesliga and anything below the top 4 of the 2. Bundesliga. For your information, I see Usami mainly as a right midfielder who could also play as central offensive midfielder if needed.

Let’s start with the three clubs Usami is already being linked with. Namely, they are Nürnberg, Augsburg and Düsseldorf.

  • Nürnberg
    • Pro: good experience with loaned Bayern players
    • Con: two talented right midfielders (Hegeler, Mak)
  • Augsburg
    • Pro: almost guaranteed starting spot, they’re still looking for a regular right midfielder
    • Con: absolutely inferior, their best-case scenario would be to fight for relegation
  • Düsseldorf
    • Pro: one of the best 2. BL teams, they don’t react but act just like Bayern
    • Con: their current right midfielder Maximilian Beister is the league’s biggest talent, it would only make sense if HSV’s Arnesen wants him back in January

Here are the other three 2. Bundesliga teams (if you think some other 2. BL squad would be a good fit, tell us in the comments):

  • Frankfurt
    • Pro: see Düsseldorf, very high budget
    • Con: they often play in a 4-3-1-2 system so Usami’s role would be different, current RM Sebastian Rode is a homegrown talent
  • Fürth
    • Pro: see above
    • Con: 4-4-2 system, starting lineup is set in stone
  • St. Pauli
    • Pro: looking for a regular RM, already tried three players (Schindler, Bruns, Bartels)
    • Con: potential culture shock

As you can see, the best 2. BL solutions would probably be St. Pauli or Düsseldorf if they have to let Beister go. Again, I’m open for other 2. BL suggestions.

It surely would be even better for Usami to join a Bundesliga side, he’d have to play against great opponents almost on a weekly basis. Since I highly doubt that he’d crack the lineup of any of the other top 7 (Dortmund, Bremen, Gladbach, Schalke, Hannover, Leverkusen), I’m only looking at the remaining 10 clubs.

  • Hoffenheim
    • Pro: interesting system he might benefit from, lots of young players
    • Con: stacked offense, probably wouldn’t play too much unlike Alaba last season
  • Hertha
    • Pro: good connections between the clubs (Babbel, Kraft, Ottl, Lell…)
    • Con: while Patrick Ebert currently isn’t Babbel’s favorite player, he’ll be back in the lineup soon enough (or, if he won’t, Rukavytsya was good enough to replace him)
  • Köln
    • Pro: regular right midfielder Adil Chihi will be sidelined for a very long time
    • Con: replacement Christian Clemens looked good so far, often relying on counter-attacks
  • Lautern
    • Pro: looking for a regular RM, already tried a lot of players
    • Con: different system
  • Wolfsburg
    • Pro: Usami’s friend Makoto Hasebe plays there, could help with integration
    • Con: Patrick Ochs has been one of their better players so far, Felix Magath
  • Mainz
    • Pro: know how to work with young players, no set lineup
    • Con: often very different formation, probably too much rotation
  • Hamburg
    • Pro: very good communication with their coach, Thorsten Fink, possible
    • Con: Gökhan Töre has been their arguably best player so far
  • Freiburg
    • Pro: Usami might play a lot (although Anton Putsila seems to be their regular RM now)
    • Con: entirely different concept

So, as you can see, and that’s why I’m writing this article, there isn’t the one best club for Usami. Every single choice has advantages and flaws. Mainz and maybe Hertha could be decent fits but I’m not even sure about that. What’s your opinion?

All in all, I can say that this time I’m glad that I’m not Christian Nerlinger. This is a very difficult and important decision he has to make. Usami needs match practice on a high level, who can offer that? Who can afford taking this risk?


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One Response to Match Practice Wanted

  1. Does it have to be a German club? Loaning him to a Scandinavian top tier club could be beneficial as well.

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