Brisbane Roar have signed former Japan international striker Masato Kudo, Asian Football expert John Duerden explains what you can expect from him this upcoming A-League season.
Masato Kudo’s first international goal for Japan was that of a real predator, summing up his composure in the area that was so familiar to J.League fans. He made this side foot shot, from just outside the six-yard box to give Japan a 3-1 lead against China in Seoul, look easy.
For those of us who were there on a humid July evening, the then 23-year old may not have seemed destined to become Japan’s leading goal-getter for years to come but was talented enough to suggest a long career for both club and country.
That was as good as it got with the Samurai Blue for Brisbane Roar’s new signing, though a strike rate of two goals in four games is pretty decent, and while he had a club career that is better than most, there is a feeling that there was always more to come. Perhaps it will in Australia.
Buying a 30-year-old former Japanese international who has scored plenty of goals in the J.League looks to be a solid signing for Brisbane.
“He’s hard-working,” Alan Gibson, editor of JSoccer Magazine, told The World Game.
“He does stuff that is often unnoticed off the ball, that creates space for others but is also a natural finisher when he gets the chances.”
He has shown that many times in the past.
First there was his time at Kashiwa Reysol, a club where he became a legend, finding the net 66 times in that famous yellow shirt.
After helping the team to the 2011 title, he had his best years in 2012 and 2013, when he was fifth top scorer in the league with 19 goals, he started to crave something new after winning the Emperor’s Cup and the J-League Cup.
“After winning the league in 2011, I wanted to play abroad and thankfully I won more trophies in Japan in 2012 and 2013 and that feeling became stronger,” Kudo said.
“I thought that the possibilities would lessen as I became older."
The call of Europe was not strong.
“I was motivated by the place that most people haven't visited before,” he said.
“I wanted to move with the feeling of ‘I want to seize this opportunity.’”
Then Vancouver Whitecaps, a club that has recruited from Asia a number of times, came calling. It was a big step for a player who had been at Kashiwa since the age of 10.
"I had a good time every day as I was going to a new team and building relationships from scratch and talking about football."
Looking at his stats, his time in MLS, with just two goals was not a success but it was defined by a horrific injury just as he was starting to settle in the league and four days after he scored his first goal.
A collision with Chicago Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson, described by some observers at the time as one of the worst they had ever seen, resulted in a broken jaw.
"I had never been injured before, so it was frustrating for me,” Kudo said.
"I couldn't deny the bad timing and as a result, I participated in 17 league games and scored two goals and it wasn’t enough to establish a place in the team.”
His time at Vancouver was defined by the injury and he has not reached the same heights since.
In 2017 he returned to Japan and joined Sanfrecce Hiroshima for an unremarkable spell in terms of goalscoring.
He played deeper than usual however and his hard-work and defending from the front were appreciated especially as the Purple Archers narrowly escaped relegation in his first season.
A loan move followed in 2019 to Renofa Yamaguchi in the second tier and this year he has been without a club, something that doesn’t sit right for a player of such caliber and standing.
Earlier this year he headed to Europe in search of a permanent deal but it did not happen. There were even thoughts of packing it all in but now he has a second chance overseas and it may well be his last.
“A new challenge is often the catalyst to improvement and he will be welcomed as if he is a star,” said Gibson.
“That can only be good for his confidence and will help.
"His English is reasonable and this will help, along with his outgoing, adventurous personality.
"He’s not afraid of a challenge - choosing to go to Vancouver Whitecaps early in his career proved that. He will not disgrace himself in Australia.”