By Gyo Araiwa
If one thing is certain at VfL Bochum on match day, it's that Takashi Inui will be leading the attack for the Ruhr valley club. The 23-year-old has started 23 matches since his arrival in Germany and with seven goals and four assists to his name.
Goal.com sat down with Shinji Kagawa's former midfield partner to discuss his recent experience returning to Samurai Blue action, playing in Germany, and Bundesliga aspirations.
Goal.com: You received a call-up to the Japanese national team for the World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan on February 29. What did it mean to you?
Takashi Inui: Of course I was happy about receiving the call-up, all the more as it has been quite a while. Also, because Kiyo (Hiroshi Kiyotake) and (Keisuke) Honda have been injured, I thought that if I wasn’t considered this time I wouldn’t get another, so that was reassuring as well. Then it was up to me to make the best out of it.
Goal.com: How do you think you did after coming on in the second half?
TI: I wasn't happy with my performance. Especially at the end – I was able to get behind their defence, but I didn’t finish well… and we lost. There were too many things I need to improve on. That angered me.
|"As a rather uncommon player type, I guess it is not easy to defend against me"
- Takashi Inui
Goal.com: As a player who learned his trade in Japan, from which element of your play do you benefit the most here?
FI: Football in Germany is quite different from soccer in Japan. In Japan, it’s regarded as more important to defend as a team and there’s more emphasis on the passing game. Here the play is more direct, and improving of individual skills is prioritized. But there are not many players who are like me here, at least I haven’t seen any in the second division who have a similar playing style; as a rather uncommon player type, I guess it is not easy to defend against me.
Goal.com: Was it hard for you to switch to the second division?
TI: As a starting point VfL is a very good club for me. I want to make my contribution to achieve promotion with this club. Well, of course it’s difficult to achieve it this season…
Goal.com: ...but that would be your target next season?
TI: Bochum really wanted me, and I feel strongly obliged to the club. This season, I couldn’t return too much yet, but we still have some matches left this season, and of course I want to show the club my gratitude through performing well.
Goal.com: What surprised you most in this league?
TI: There aren’t too many things which actually surprised me. It was clear to me that the players are strong [physically]. As you can see, I belong to the 'lighter' type of Japanese players. Of course, you can become physically stronger by training on machines, but that's not my goal. You can get past opponents with pace. In fact, there are many possibilities to get past robust challenges.
|"To raise their level it's good if [Japanese] players go abroad. There’s no rule that you have to play in Japan first to make your move to Europe"
- Takashi Inui
Goal.com: There are currently eight Japanese players active in the Bundesliga. Is that a motivation for you?
TI: They're spurring me on. Many of them play a good role (with their club). Of course, I want to go (to the Bundesliga) too, as soon as possible.
Goal.com: There are many players in Japan who are thinking of a move to Europe. What would be your advice to them?
TI: Of course it depends on the player, but basically Japanese are technically good and can make it here. To raise their level it's good if players go abroad. There’s no rule that you have to play in Japan first to make your move to Europe. Look at (Ryo) Miyaichi, for instance. He came at a young age and benefits from the experience as a player. They should just have courage.
|"I want to play in Germany, in the Bundesliga. Preferably with VfL Bochum"
- Takashi Inui
Goal.com: There have been rumours about an offer from Galatasaray…
TI: Well, at least there was no direct contact to me (laughs). But even if I received an offer, I wouldn’t have taken it. At the moment, I don’t have amibitions of playing in Turkey.
Goal.com: So at the moment, Germany is the only option?
TI: Yes. I want to play in Germany, in the Bundesliga. Preferably with VfL Bochum.