After a few days of rumour coming largely from the Japanese media, Saints today announced that international striker Tadanari Lee has arrived at the club for talks over a move to the South Coast.
It is largely rumoured that financially the deal is complete and Lee will train with the first team while any work permit complications are ironed out. Lee who was born in Tokyo to Korean parents made a name for himself with the superb volley that won the 2011 Asian Cup final against Australia.
He has also been in good form for his current club Sanfrecce Hiroshima scoring fifteen goals in the recently finished J-League season. Having just turned twenty six, the six foot forward will be looking to take his career to the next level at Saints, and provide the often bemoaned lack of pace in the starting lineup.
georgeweahscousin.com caught up with French Eurosport J-League commentator and Japanese football expert Clément Delestrade to find out what we can expect from the Samurai Blue star…
What are Lee’s main assets as a player?
“He is good with both feet, he’s fast, strong, he’s not afraid to shoot, he has some technically brillant moments sometimes, he can dribble. He also likes to create his own goals, he doesn’t just sit and watch on the box. He’s very good with volleys. Not everything will translate but he may also look different as English defenders are bigger but slower than their Japanese counterparts.”
What are his weaknesses?
“He can miss a few sitters and he can also slump if he loses confidence. He had a breaking year in 2007 but had to wait until 2010 before he was really noticed, it can still happen again but it really looks like his career has started for real. If he is confident he’ll be alright. If not he’ll be frustrating to watch.”
What is his best position?
“Striker. One up top, two up top, whatever. He can probably play on the wing but that would be a bad use of his abilities.”
Can he play off of a big strike partner like Rickie Lambert?
“Yeah I think so. It sounds like a bit of a cliché to say the big man and the fast one are complementing each other very well but if both are good and willing to play together there shouldn’t be any problem. Just don’t constantly play the long balls!”
Do you think he can adapt to the English game?
“Definitely. He’s 26, physically he’s a grown man, he’s not light, if there is one it’s him.”
Will this see an increase in interest for Southampton and the Championship in Japan?
“Definitely, don’t expect ten thousands of shirts to be sold but it happened for Abe and I personally find myself following Leicester’s games with Japanese friends even though I had no interest in the past. If a recognized player, with an established fanbase (and a lot of Japanese players have fanbases even guys not known or good), he’ll be watched even if he signed in the Latvian second division. They’re just passionate and loyal people. Some games will probably be broadcast too.”
Lee will join Yuki Abe in England’s second tier. Do you think the recent success of the Japanese national team will see more exports?
“It has already begun and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. Since the opening of the January market, already two players have made a move (Havenaar to Vitesse Arnhem, Gotoku Sakai to Stuttgart) and I expect a few more because Japanese players are really cheap, players are signed to really short contracts and the salaries are far from what we see in Europe, and just as good as anybody else.
I’m not expecting to see a lot of them in England because the Premier League still lacks a success story a la Kagawa, he really paved the way for Japanese players in Germany. I think Abe would have benefited from signing with a Premier League team which plays a better passing game than Leicester, that’s when his skills are valuable, and Miyaichi’s perspectives in Arsenal are completely blocked for the moment. Lee might change the landscape for Japanese players in England because he’s young, already established in his own country, and he will likely get playing time from the get go and he has more upside than Abe.”
What are the chances of Lee featuring in the London Olympics?
“Very small if not nill, he hasn’t taken part in the qualifications so far and the coach, Mr.Sekizuka, has a policy of not using overaged players.”
Check out Clément’s website on Japanese Football here:- Ganbare Nippon