Japanese football has found itself a new star in the form of Keisuke Honda.
In the build up to South Africa 2010, Honda was one of the bright stars of Asian football, and was tipped to shine during the tournament.
His winner for Japan, in their opening Group E clash with Cameroon, has catapulted the young Japanese midfielder onto the world stage.
Such was the huge talent of Honda, he began his football career with Nagoya Grampus Eight while still attending high school.
After graduating, he officially joined the J League outfit in 2005, having been permitted to appear for them due to his selection as one of the Designated Players for Development by the J League and the Japanese FA.
In 2008, overseas offers came in and the talented youngster signed for Dutch side VVV-Venio. Despite suffering relegation from the Eredivisie, Honda was the inspiration that brought them straight back up the very next year.
In their promotion campaign, the Japanese ace scored twenty-one goals and cemented his status with the Dutch team’s fans. So much so that they gave their Japanese star the nickname of ‘Keizer Keisuke’, meaning ‘Emperor Keisuke’ in Dutch.
It is Honda’s powerful running, deft touches, and an eye for defence splitting passes that has endeared him to the fans. His technical ability from free-kicks and set pieces are also weapons in his formidable arsenal.
Last year, Honda’s performances had several Premiership clubs taking a closer look at this emerging star from the land of the rising sun. Liverpool and Everton were possible suitors.
Other larger Dutch clubs also expressed interest, with the likes of PSV, Feyenoord, and Ajax all making enquiries.
However, earlier this year, Honda signed a long term contract with CSKA Moscow and made an instant impact for his new club.
In only his second game, the away leg of their Champions League encounter with Sevilla, the young Japanese player scored the winner direct from a free kick, sending his new team into the quarter-finals.
As if that was not enough, it was Honda who was on hand with the assist for his team’s opening goal.
Honda is also no stranger to international football, having played for his country at the youth and U-23 level. He made his full international debut in a World Cup qualifier against Bahrain in June 2008.
He oozes confidence and earned himself the Man of the Match Award in Japan's opening Group match against Cameroon for his goal and overall contribution to their victory.
Along with a handful of other emerging talents, Honda came into this tournament as one of its exciting young guns and is living up to his billing.
Since the retirement of the great Hidetoshi Nakata, Japanese fans have not had a football idol that they can worship, as only the Japanese can. In Honda, they may have just found one and world football its next great Asian player.
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