The Bundesliga may have found their next Japanese star, with Mainz coach Martin Schmidt describing Yoshinori Muto as a “perfect fit”.
Germany’s top flight has had a strong association with Japan internationals for over a decade, starting with the likes of Naohiro Takahara, Junichi Inamoto and Makoto Hasebe, and continuing with Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki.
But Muto is shaping as the new leading man for Japan in the Bundesliga, with his brace in Mainz’s 3-0 victory over Hannover on Saturday underlining the forward’s overall qualities.
Muto looked to be the complete package against Hannover.
The former FC Tokyo captain’s sharp movement and clinical finishing saw him open the scoring in the 15th minute, while just before the half-hour mark he slipped free of his marker to head a loose ball home from a corner.
Muto also played a critical role in Mainz’s third goal just after the break, forcing a turnover with his pressing that allowed Yunus Malli to burst forward and score.
“I see him perform like that on a daily basis,” Schmidt said afterwards, according to the Bundesliga’s website.
“I am surprised, however, about how he’s come here and got involved, how he runs the play, how hard-working he is and how much ground he covers… and how many interceptions he makes in the opponents’ half to win possession. These are the things that set him apart.”
Schmidt added: “His speed and presence suit the lone striker’s role.
“But whether he’s running from inside out or outside in, his qualities and attributes make him a perfect fit for us.”
Muto was thrilled to score his maiden Bundesliga goals.
“Today I wanted to demonstrate what makes me such a strong player in terms of my speed and, of course, my movement off the ball,” he said.
Having inspired Mainz to their second win of the Bundesliga season, Muto will now link up with his national team squad for Japan’s World Cup qualifiers against Cambodia and Afghanistan on September 3 and 8 respectively.
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