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Ahead of the Samurai Blue Kirin Cup's clash against the Czech Republic, Goal.com's Cesare Polenghi takes a look at the best performing Japanese in Europe during the 2010-11 season

Besides having the Samurai Blue national team performing well at the World Cup and winning the Asian Cup in Qatar, Japanese football fans experienced an exciting 2010-11 season thanks to their contingent in Europe.

Among the one Japanese player winning the Bundesliga, the three claiming national cups and a bunch more helping their clubs to avoid relegation, here are Goal.com's picks for the Top 10 Japanese players in Europe for the 2010-11 campaign.



10. Yuki Abe (MF, Leicester City)
Appearances: 36
Goals: 1

It took a while to Abe to get used to the physicality of the Championship, but by the end of the season he had become an idol of the supporters, also bagging his first goal with the Foxes in their last game of 2010-11.


9. Keisuke Honda (MF, CSKA Moscow)
Appearances (2011 Season): 6
Goals: 2

Lights and shadows so far in 2011 for one of Japan's most beloved players, who seldom could play in his favorite position and had to deal with a nasty injury. Back in the starting eleven now, but will he finish the year in Moscow?


8. Michihiro Yasuda (DF, Vitesse Arnhem)
Appearances: 15
Goals: 0

His real achievement is measured by Zaccheroni's decision to call him back for the national team after a two-year hiatus. In Holland he was a regular starter, and delivered his trademarked assists after countless runs up and down the left flank.


7. Ryo Miyaichi (FW, Feyenoord)
Appearances: 12
Goals: 3

Alternated moments of sheer brilliance to a few dull games, but he managed anyway to fit into one of the top Dutch sides - all the above coming straight from a Japanese high school. No surprise that Arsenal, who brought him to Europe, want him back already.


6. Eiji Kawashima (GK, Lierse SK)
Appearances: 28
Clean Sheets: 3

Playing behind of one of the most vulnerable defenses in the Jupiler League, Kawashima was bombarded by shots game after game, but managed enough saves to prevent Lierse SK from being relegated. Now, he is likely moving on to greener praires.


5. Shinji Okazaki (FW, Stuttgart)
Appearances: 12
Goals: 2

Despite only scoring in the last two games, the former Shimizu S-Pulse's striker won the heart of his supporters thanks to his tireless effort. One of the driving forces in Stuttgart's escape from relegation.


4. Akihiro Ienaga (MF, Mallorca)
Appearances: 14
Goals: 2

Spain so far had been no territory of conquest for Japanese footballers. But where many have failed, "Aki" has proved he can succeed. Some great moments this season, but he still needs more continuity to confirm his qualities and earn a spot as a regular starter.


3. Atsuto Uchida (DF, Schalke 04)
Appearances: 26
Goals: 0

Some used to say that he played in the Japanese national team only because of his good looks... be that as it may, he showed what he's got in a club that won the German Cup and made it to the top four in Europe. As a bonus, he also became a good friend with Raul!


2. Shinji Kagawa (MF, Borussia Dortmund)
Appearances: 18
Goals: 8

His class and efficacy surprised only those who who did not know him. Without the January injury, Kagawa could have been one of the best players of the season in Europe. He returned just in time to lift the Bundesliga shield.

1. Yuto Nagatomo (DF, Cesena/Inter)
Appearances: 16/13
Goals: 0/2

Allegedly, he gets really upset when people say his rise to stardom is a "Cinderella Story". Still, going in one single season from FC Tokyo to winning the Italian Cup with Inter (via Cesena), has a bit of a fairytale touch in it.

Disagree with our selection? Let us know who you would have included in your top 10. As ever, we’re looking forwards to your comments.

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