Cerezo Osaka are one of Japan’s most successful football exporters. Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa is their most famous graduate of course. While Hiroshi Kiyotake of Nurnberg and Eintract Frankfurt’s Takashi Inui of Eintract Frankfurt were both at Cerezo when they left Japan.
United face a depleted Cerezo side in Osaka today. Three of their strongest players are currently with Japan at the East Asian Football Championship.
Hotaru Yamaguchi, 22, and Takahiro Ogihara, 21, are fine players and were members of Japan’s London 2012 squad. Yoichiro Kakitani, 23, a mesmeric playmaker is the J.League’s form player this season and is attracting keen interest from foreign clubs. Cerezo are much weaker without them but they do have other noteworthy players.
United will face another bright young thing who will surely play abroad in the future – his name is Takumi Minamino.
The 18 year old made his debut last season and has featured regularly this year. Normally starting on the left side of attack Minamino has great vision, excellent dribbling technique and a good shot. While he has not converted the prolific form from his youth career to the senior ranks there is hope in Japan that Minamino might eventually become a regular finisher.
Japan certainly need a striker. While the country has a wealth of young attacking midfield prospects they lack genuine goal scorers. Minamino may or may not eventually convert to a central attacking position but for now he is making great waves in the J.League and United should be wary of his threat.
Like many other young professionals in Japan Minamino was a product of the Dutch influenced Coerver Coaching clinics. He has been with Cerezo since primary school and is one of their brightest talents in many years. The game against the English champions provides a chance for him to gage the level of his development.
The intricacies of J.League finance and player contracts in Japan mean that clubs rarely make large profits from selling their talent abroad. Kagawa famously joined Borussia Dortmund for a fee of €350,000. Japanese players have not always travelled well. The level of domestic football is increasing rapidly however and the foreign successes are starting to outnumber the failures.
Together with Yamaguchi, Ogihara and Kakitani, Minamino looks set to continue Cerezo’s fine export record. Perhaps he will cross paths with United in Europe in the future.
Takumi Minamino – 南野拓実
Club: Cerezo Osaka
Date of Birth: 16 January 1995 (18 years old)
Place of Birth: Osaka, Japan
Height: 174 cm
Weight: 67 kg