Friday, 15 December 2017

 

Honda Goes South

In fact, the 31-year old attacking midfielder, who became a free agent after parting ways with the Rossoneri, at the end of the last campaign, was linked to some Major League Soccer clubs, before he signed on in Mexico. So much, in fact that Honda was training in California with Orange County SC amid speculations about a move to LA Galaxy or Los Angeles Football Club, but the Japanese international crossed the border south, joining Pachuca.

“I am happy to be a member of the team and hope I can help as much as possible”, Honda told an introductory press conference.

For Honda, this is a new chapter in a playing career that went recently south after a promising start. Once labelled as one of the best, most pure talents ever produced by Japanese football, Honda hit some lows after joining AC Milan.

After four productive years in Russia with CSKA Moscow, all was looking good for Honda. But things didn’t work out as well as he would have hoped at Milan. Honda didn’t sparkle at the San Siro, starting just one Serie A game in this past campaign and it soon became evident that Honda would leave at the end of the season. The only surprising thing about the story is where Honda landed.

Honda did give some clarification about his choice when he told press, “I wanted to move to a club that really wanted me”.

That is probably a key point, since, after a less-than-spectacular season with AC Milan, the Mexicans team proved that did really want him. Quite probably, Honda had some options, including that of remaining in Europe, but possibly only in a marginal role at any club that wanted him.

With Russia 2018 World Cup only a year away, it would seem - although nothing is guaranteed in football - Honda won’t spend another season on the bench.

So, goodbye Europe and hello Mexico, as the former Nagoya Grampus star joins Los Tuzos where he will presumably replace the departing Mexico international, Hirving Lozano, recently sold to PSV Eindhoven in The Netherlands.

Perhaps Liga MX isn’t the best league in the world, as Pachuca’s president Jesus Martinez pointed out, but they surely deserve some credit. In fact, some good players, such as Rogelio Funes Mori or Andre-Pierre Gignac, recently joined the Mexican football first division, favoring Liga MX over mid-table European sides.

This season, Honda aside, Pachuca also brought in Enner Valencia, who will join Tigres from the English Prmeier League’s West Ham United. It will be the second experience in Mexico for the Ecuadorian player who had a brief stay with Pachuca before his English sojourn.

At Pachuca, Honda will meet a side strongly considered to have the ability to reach a play-off spot, at least. The team is considered one of the best Mexican sides at bringing young players through their Academy, and Los Tuzos have also bolstered their backline with centre-backs Omar González and Óscar Murillo.

But they also strengthen the offensive side of the team… apart from Honda they recently acquired Chilean internationals Ángelo Sagal and Edson Puch.

The 24-year old Sagal is a centre-forward, while Puch is a right-footed offensive winger who can also operate from the left.

With Uruguayan Jonathan Urretaviscaya starting on the right side, Honda should operate as No.10 in a probable 4-2-3-1 formation manager Diego Alonso could line up.

After a frustrating experience at San Siro, Pachuca will represent a fresh start for  Honda. Of course, Liga MX isn’t as highly regarded as Serie A or other top European leagues, but this move should provide Honda the needed playing time that will allow him the opportunity to return to his career heights.

Indubitably, Honda has failed to live up to the hype that has surrounded him since he left Japan in 2008, when he started his European career at Holland’s VVV-Venlo. But this move should instill in Honda a new energy that can help him become a key part of the national team once again.

With the Samurai Blue fighting to reach their sixth consecutive World Cup, manager Vahid Halilhodzic needs his players in top shape. This means that the likes of Honda need to play on a regular basis, as the Bosnian national team manager recently pointed out.

Honda has not been on his best form this season due to the lack of playing time. With the Liga MX already started, Honda made a good move by bypassing a break and joining Pachuca as soon as the European season was over. The move should ensure him a good amount of playing time just ahead of Japan’s pivotal qualifying games against Australia (Aug. 31) and Saudi Arabia (Sept. 5). So, Halilhodzic could soon be welcoming a newly-motivated and match-fit-ready player.

That’s can’t be bad news.

(Pictures from the WorldWideWeb: no copyright claimed or implied)