Japanese trio hit freshly-blazed Kagawa trail | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 01.10.2012
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Japanese trio hit freshly-blazed Kagawa trail

Japan international Shinji Kagawa was perhaps the Bundesliga's main summer loss - to Manchester United's gain. But the German soccer sun is not setting on the East, three Kagawa-clones have leapt into the mix.

Shinji Kagawa was arguably the best bit of business Borussia Dortmund ever did, especially from an accountant's perspective. Dortmund bought him for 350,000 euros ($450,000) from the Japanese second division and then sold him to Manchester United for an estimated 16 million euros two seasons later. That was only after Dortmund won back-to-back league titles, with Kagawa netting 29 competitive goals and setting up another 17 in the two championship years.

Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus celebrates a goal against Borussia Moenchengladbach during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match in Dortmund September 29, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Dortmund filled their Kagawa-shaped hole quite effectively

The profit made on Kagawa paid for the purchase of Marco Reus, so the loss to Dortmund was limited - as Reus' brace against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday showed.

But don't lament the now-lacking Japanese influence in Germany either. A trio of youngsters boasting just the kind of gifts Kagawa flaunts at Old Trafford these days - he scored in United's loss to Tottenham this weekend - are threatening to take the Bundesliga by storm. One of them, 24-year-old Takashi Inui, used to play alongside Kagawa at Cerezo Osaka in Japan.

Letting his feet do the talking

Inui didn't score in second-placed Frankfurt's 2-1 win over Freiburg on Sunday, having found the net in all three of his previous league games.

But even without gracing the scoreboard, Inui missed the best chance of the game and scored a screamer from an outrageous angle that was disallowed for offside.

Takashi Inui, Japanese midfielder of Eintracht Frankfurt, celebrates his goal against HSV Hamburg during their German first division Bundesliga soccer match in Frankfurt, September 16, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

He may be profiting from Frankfurt's stellar form, but Inui has hit the ground running

In six league games, Inui has scored three - two of them silky solo efforts - and created three more. Not bad for a little over a million euros from second division Bochum, and better still when you consider his difficulties communicating with the players and coaching staff.

"I can't speak any English. I understand a little German, but can barely express myself at all," Inui confided in a pre-season interview with German football magazine Kicker. "When I played for Bochum, Kagawa and I would often visit a private tutor together, who tried to teach us German. Recently I haven't had the time, and I don't have a teacher any more."

Frankfurt have not brought in an interpreter, and Inui said that he could not always understand coach Armin Veh's verbal instructions.

"But in the games I somehow figure out what he is asking of me and try to respond accordingly. I believe it's going quite well so far. Misunderstandings can always come about though," Inui said.

Two Takashi's, one Usami

Fußball Bundesliga 5. Spieltag: VfB Stuttgart - 1899 Hoffenheim am 26.09.2012 in der Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart: Der Stuttgarter Torhüter Sven Ulreich (vorn) kann den Ball von Takashi Usami aus Hoffenheim nicht halten. Usami trifft zur 1:0-Führung. Foto: Bernd Weißbrod dpa/lsw (Achtung Hinweis zur Bildnutzung! Die DFL erlaubt die Weiterverwertung von maximal 15 Fotos (keine Sequenzbilder und keine videoähnlichen Fotostrecken) während des Spiels (einschließlich Halbzeit) aus dem Stadion und/oder vom Spiel im Internet und in Online-Medien. Uneingeschränkt gestattet ist die Weiterleitung digitalisierter Aufnahmen bereits während des Spiels ausschließlich zur internen redaktionellen Bearbeitung (z. B. via Bilddatenbanken) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Usami embarrassed Stuttgart and keeper Sven Ulreich midweek

For fans of deft dribbling and disastrous defending - Stuttgart did him several favors - Takashi Usami of Hoffenheim has scored the best goal of the season so far. He danced around a host of Stuttgart players before finishing from close in.

The 20-year old caught Bayern Munich's eye last season, but couldn't break into the side during his year on the Säbener Strasse. Usami could only boast one solitary goal when he was given a run-out in the German Cup against lower-league Ingolstadt.

This year, Usami's J-League club, Gamba Osaka, loaned him out to Hoffenheim, where he is among the first names on the team sheet. Strong with both feet, technically proficient, happy finishing with finesse or ferocity, the slightly taller Usami is still very similar to Inui - and to Kagawa before him.

Nuremberg's Japanese midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake plays the ball during the German first division Bundesliga football match 1. FC Nuernberg vs Borussia Dortmund in Nuremberg, southern Germany, on September 1, 2012. (Photo: Getty Images)

Coach Hecking says Kiyotake instinctively knows what's required of him

His other goal this season, against Freiburg, was the opposite of the Stuttgart Playstation effort. Usami took one touch to control on the edge of the box, turned, and blasted it into the top-corner with his right. No nonsense.

Kiyotake, also of Osaka

Judging by recent form in Germany, clubs should keep a close eye on Cerezo Osaka's attacking midfield. Beyond Kagawa and Inui, there's Hiroshi Kiyotake, freshly arrived in Nuremberg for just a million euros. Described by coach Dieter Hecking as an "instinctive" player, Kiyotake has started every game and immediately taken over set piece duties. The 22-year-old has one goal (the seemingly compulsory crazy dribble capped with a well-placed mid-range shot) and four assists to his name. The football statistics website whoscored.com comfortably rates Kiyotake as Nuremberg's standout player of the season so far.

Even putting this trio who are following in Kagawa's footsteps to one side, Stuttgart boasts striker Shinji Okazaki and defender Gotoku Sakai, Schalke's Atsuto Uchida is a solid right back very much within Huub Stevens' rotation, while Wolfsburg's Makoto Hasebe extended his contract ahead of schedule this summer.

Japan's women won the World Cup last summer and Olympic silver this year. Similar success is unlikely, but the men's side is hardly short of rising stars - many of whom will hone their skills, and maybe learn a new language, in the Bundesliga.