Premier League-winning Japan star Shinji Okazaki is looking write the next chapter of his career in the A-League, as he prepares to exit Leicester City after four years at the King Power Stadium.
Having flirted with Sydney FC a year ago, the livewire attacker’s availability is likely to elicit interest from Melbourne Victory, Western Sydney Wanderers and Western United - all three of whom are on the lookout for x-factor signings.
Having made his 119th appearance for his country on Tuesday against Ecuador at the 2019 Copa America, the impish and electric Okazaki remains a potent presence, even at the age of 33.
The Sky Blues sought to sign him in a dollar-for-dollar deal utilising FFA’s marquee treasure chest - currently believed to stand at around $1.4 million - but the ruling body instead opted to partially fund compatriot Keisuke Honda’s one-season stint at Melbourne Victory.
It’s unclear how deep clubs would need to dig to bring him to the A-League, but it would be significantly less than the estimated $2.9 million lavished on Honda.
A fan favourite at Leicester - where he made 36 appearances during their fairytale title surge in 2015-2016 - Okasaki was a peripheral figure last season with all but one of his 21 appearances coming off the bench.
He has reached a mutual understanding with coach Brendan Rodgers on his release and views the A-League as a viable vehicle leading into the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as he chases down Yasuhito Endo’s record tally of 152 caps.
With his 50 goals for his country the third highest, he is showing few signs of easing up and his representatives are confident he would be a revelation in the A-League.
Boasting a career portfolio which also includes Bundesliga spells at Stuttgart and Mainz, Okazaki also spent six seasons at Shimizu S-Pulse and his fame in his homeland arguably rivals that of Honda, whose Victory spell began brightly but finished limply.
With compatriot Shinji Ono still a revered figure at Wanderers nearly five years after his departure, he might be a good fit for the team’s Bankwest Stadium debut next season.
Coach Markus Babbel has a visa spot available, whilst Victory are looking to fill the void left by Kosta Barbarouses’ departure and Western United are in the hunt for a glamour signing after missing out on former France international Samir Nasri.
It’s understood that Vissel Kobe - who boast Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Lukas Podolski in their squad while sitting 13th on the J1 League ladder - have already stated their desire to bring Okazaki back to his homeland.