Shinji Kagawa, Eiji Kawashima & the top five Japanese in Europe in 2011-2012

By Dan Orlowitz | Japanese Football Editor

The last year has been a rollercoaster month for Japan as the team has largely flourished under manager Alberto Zaccheroni. Compared to 15, 10, and even five years ago, more Japanese players than ever are challenging themselves in Europe and succeeding in the continent's top divisions.

But some Japanese players struggled to break through, with Tomaki Makino, Kisho Yano, Yuki Abe, and Masahiko Inoha returning to Japan. Takashi Usami languished on the Bayern bench, while Samurai Blue captain Makoto Hasebe struggled at Wolfsburg. Promising players such as Tadanari Lee and Keisuke Honda had injury-shortened seasons, while newcomers like Mike Havenaar and Gotoku Sakai began to prove their potential.

On the whole positive performances far outnumbered the negative, and to reflect this has put together its top-five Japanese players in Europe for the 2011-12 season. One thing is for certain: if Japan continues to send players of such high calibre overseas, next year's selection will be even more difficult.

5. HAJIME HOSOGAI | Augsburg, Midfielder, 24

Appearances 32
Goals 3
Assists 1
Season highlight Shutting down Kagawa
2011-12 starts 31
Home next season Bayer Leverkusen

The former Urawa Reds man had an impressive season with Augsburg, who some would argue overachieved in their first-ever Bundesliga season in finishing in 14th and avoiding relegation. Hosogai's first goal in the top flight came in September against Leverkusen, the team that had loaned him to Augsburg in the first place. In Round 25 against Dortmund, he proved to be the only defensive player in the league capable of shutting down Shinji Kagawa. Hosogai will likely return to Leverkusen next season and has proven himself more than capable of holding his own in Germany.

4. MAYA YOSHIDA | VVV Venlo, Centre-back, 24

Appearances 32
Goals 5
Assists 0
League highlight Bicycle kick goal vs. PSV
International highlight Game-winner vs. DPRK
Estimated value 1 million

Though not necessarily as flashy as some of his peers, 23-year-old Yoshida’s steady play was instrumental in VVV Venlo’s Eredivisie survival after they managed to scrape through the recent promotion-relegation play-off. The centre-back put in 32 appearances, and his five goals were tied for second-best in the team.

The highlight of Yoshida’s season came in September, when his right-footed bicycle-kick snuck under the crossbar to give VVV a 3-2 lead against PSV. Though the visitors equalised late, the goal was still voted best of the year by the league.

3. EIJI KAWASHIMA | Lierse, Goalkeeper, 29

Appearances 30
Goals allowed 36
Assists 0
Season highlight voted MVP for second year
Fluent languages Japanese, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Wants to play at AC Milan

The 29-year-old had another monster season between the posts in the Belgium Pro League, conceding just 36 goals - fifth best in the league. But Lierse’s position players utterly failed to support their captain as they managed to score a league-worst 24 goals.

Unfortunately for the supporters who voted Kawashima as MVP for a second year in a row, he's already turned down an extension and has reportedly set his sights on Serie A giants AC Milan. With the World Cup just two years away and young goalkeepers like Shuichi Gonda rising up the depth charts, the former Kawasaki Frontale man may only have a few years left to make his Italian dream a reality.

2. SHINJI OKAZAKI | Stuttgart, Striker, 26

Appearances 26
Goals 7
Assists 1
Number of starts 18
Scored most against Schalke, Hannover
International caps (Goals) 51 (27)

In his first full season at Stuttgart, Okazaki found his pacing with seven goals in 26 appearances including a remarkable three-game streak in February. The 26-year-old’s production fell off in the spring due to injury, but if anything the winter arrival of fellow Japanese Gotoku Sakai helped as the two combined often in plotting dynamic attacks up the sides. Next season should prove even more fruitful, as with Kagawa’s expected departure to England Okazaki will have the chance to emerge as the top Japanese striker in the Bundesliga.

1. SHINJI KAGAWA | Borussia Dortmund, Midfielder, 23

Appearances 31
Goals 13
Assists 12
Season highlight March double at Koln
Future home Manchester United?
Estimated value 17m

There’s little that hasn’t already been written about Kagawa’s performance this season, but it goes without saying that he is the undisputed choice for Japan's top performer in Europe. If he does indeed head to the Premier League next season, he’ll be remembered as a crucial part of the Dortmund squad that earned won two Bundesliga titles as well as this year’s DfB-Pokal. And yet at the age of 23, it's clear that Shinji Kagawa has his best years ahead of him, at Manchester United or any other club lucky enough to secure his services.

Do you agree with's Top Five Japanese in Europe for this season? If not, who do you think should be on the list?

Follow Dan Orlowitz on

Follow Asia on and
for the latest in Asian footballing news, features, and analysis

cellspacing=td style= cellpadding=


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • US renews travel warning to Mindanao
    US renews travel warning to Mindanao

    The US State Department renewed its warning about the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu archipelago, certain regions and cities of Mindanao and the southern Sulu Sea area. In an update on Wednesday of a travel warning it issued Nov. 20, 2014, the State Department said US citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu archipelago due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there. …

  • Phl gains support for APEC Action Agenda
    Phl gains support for APEC Action Agenda

    The Philippine initiative to put the interests of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) front and center in global and regional trade has made significant progress following the conclusion on Thursday of the 2nd APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings in Boracay, Aklan. Called “The Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs,” the Philippine proposal calls for a host of specific, concrete and practical interventions that APEC economies can implement to provide MSMEs wider …

  • Phl to join Bangkok meet on Rohingya crisis next week
    Phl to join Bangkok meet on Rohingya crisis next week

    The Philippines will join a 15-nation meeting in Bangkok, Thailand next week to address the migration crisis involving thousands of Rohingyas who escaped persecution in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima bared this yesterday after meeting with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representative to the Philippines Bernard Kerblat. In an interview, De Lima said the Philippine government has been invited to the meeting. …

  • Magnitude 4.2 quake jolts Sorsogon
    Magnitude 4.2 quake jolts Sorsogon

    LEGAZPI CITY—A magnitude 4.2 earthquake hit Prieto Diaz town in Sorsogon before dawn yesterday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said. …

  • Drought-resistant rice breeds bared
    Drought-resistant rice breeds bared

    SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ, Nueva Ecija – Amid the searing heat, the Philippine Rice Research Institute central experiment station here has identified nine rice breeds which have been proven to be drought-resistant and produce high yields in temperatures as high as 38°C based on a recent study. Thelma Padolina, lead researcher of the study titled “Screening of rice-induced mutants for heat and drought tolerance,” identified the breeding lines as the Ballatinaw lines, PSB Rc72H and Azucena lines. …

  • Phl, US assert rights, ignore China warning
    Phl, US assert rights, ignore China warning

    The United States military will continue air and sea patrols in international waters even after the Chinese navy repeatedly warned a US surveillance plane to leave the airspace over artificial islands China is creating in the disputed South China Sea. The Philippine government also declared it would continue activities in the region, calling on China to respect freedom of navigation and aviation. “Our position on the importance of letting freedom of navigation, freedom of aviation and …

  • MM shutdown eyed for quake drill; 6 schools warned
    MM shutdown eyed for quake drill; 6 schools warned

    Electricity and mobile phone services would be cut throughout Metro Manila, and all private and government offices and businesses, including shopping malls, would be closed. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has warned that an earthquake of that magnitude could occur and kill at least 33,500 people and injure at least 113,600 others following a movement in the West Valley Fault. The West Valley Fault has moved four times in the past 1,400 years at an interval …

  • Subaru XV now priced among sedans
    Subaru XV now priced among sedans

    Motor Image Philipinas (MIP), the authorized distributor of Subaru in the country, has positioned its brand new crossover SUV, the Subaru XV, well within the sedan segment’s price range. This move, according to MIP, was made to give the public an opportunity to experience the brand’s unique automotive technologies by lowering its price. Buyers of […] The post Subaru XV now priced among sedans appeared first on Carmudi Philippines. …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options