By Cesare Polenghi | Goal.com Asia Managing Editor
Speculation regarding a possible move for Keisuke Honda to a big European club has now been rife for more than a year. However, his current club, CSKA Moscow, have make it clear that the Samurai Blue will not be allowed to leave the Russian capital on the cheap: according to Goal.com sources, the price-tag is between €14-21 million.
Beyond the gossip and contradictory rumours, Goal.com looks at the hard facts, in order to answer the question: where will Keisuke Honda be playing in 2012?
Lazio are the club that appear the mostly likely to sign Honda at the moment. Their sporting director Igli Tare has recently visited Moscow and seemingly returned to Rome with an agreement with the player.
There are, however, two more hurdles to deal with: the cost of the player, and the fact that Lazio's non-EU slots are already filled - with Serie A clubs not allowed to sign more than two players a season from abroad carrying non-European passports.
To kill two birds with one stone, Lazio are now trying to throw Nigerian striker Stephen Makinwa or Argentine goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo into the deal. Should the deal go through, Honda would probably take Genoa-bound Giuseppe Sculli's place on the left flank of the midfield in Edoardo Reja's 4-3-1-2 formation.
The club most Japanese and Asian fans would like to see Honda at is Liverpool. Under Kenny Dalglish’s orders, the native of Osaka would have the chance to play in a more offensive role, and link up with Steven Gerrard in midfield. In a playmaker position, Honda could in turn use his strength at holding up the ball and ability to pick out a pass to find the likes of Luis Suarez and Craig Bellamy.
Still, having shelled out £35m (€40.8m) on Andy Carroll only a year ago, Liverpool's piggy bank seems bare at the moment. If they somehow manage to pick up Honda, it would be through a huge effort financially, that would result in a great deal of pressure being placed on the Japanese star to deliver instantly at one of the world’s biggest clubs. Realistically speaking, the Reds' recent outlay on players means they may struggle to meet CSKA’s asking price.
The club to have shown the most recent interest came in the guise of the Premier League leaders, Manchester City. At the Etihad Stadium, Alberto Zaccheroni’s pupil would find himself among some of the best players in the world. This season, Mancini's outfit have begun to play a fluid, quick attacking style which would suit Honda’s approach perfectly.
But not all that glitters is gold: there is in fact an impressive list of attacking players who have come and gone at City since the club became wealthy overnight in 2008. All of them were probably happy to take the money, but less than pleased with their lack of minutes. In Manchester, Honda would be unlikely to be more than a squad player, and his ego may struggle with the idea of rotation. Lack of minutes could also affect his form, development and potentially, his place in the national team.
Waving goodbye? | Where is Honda most likely to end up?
Milan are still believed to be in the race for Carlos Tevez, but as the days go by the deal seems more and more difficult to execute. Like all Italian clubs, Milan do not have an awful lot of money to spend, and the failure to push through Alexandre Pato's move to PSG means funds could be limited.
It is a crying shame, as the in-vogue Honda has been watched for some time by the Italian champions, and the player would surely fit well into fashionable Milan.
Milan are facing an emergency in midfield, with Kevin-Prince Boateng facing at least a month out, while Gennaro Gattuso is not yet ready to return to the field and Alberto Aquilani has not convinced all observers just yet so the 25-year-old may be able to solve a few of Massimiliano Allegri's problems.
Honda’s versatility means he could play several positions and he should not have a problem in finding space in the team, even when the injured players return to the field. Allegri, who is happy to move players around the field, would surely welcome a utility man such as Honda.
Will Milan president Silvio Berlusconi, who may regret not listening to Zaccheroni when the latter advised him to snatch Yuto Nagatomo from Cesena, consider splashing the cash?
Moving over from Milan to another trendsetting city, Paris Saint-Germain seem to still be in the hunt for an offensive central midfielder. While it is not clear yet who new coach Carlo Ancelotti has in mind, the first few games with him at the helm indicate that he is trying to build a balanced team, aiming to control the game by crowding the midfield, with every player ready to spring off and counter attack.
While Honda would fit well in such a pattern, he does not seem to be a priority for PSG anymore. However, according to some reports, the capital club might still be interested in him, and with Javier Pastore and Nene already on board as top-class offensive midfielders, they would surely benefit from Honda’s muscle and speed of execution.
Moreover, the former VVV midfielder could become a huge marketing tool, which would help to put PSG on the Asian map and substantiate the brand they have tried to push worldwide since the arrival of Leonardo. The Parisians have huge financial means and should they want to go for Honda, they would just need to open their seemingly bottomless wallet.
|Which club is Honda's best match?
|Lazio||Liverpool||Man City||AC Milan||PSG|
||Maybe||Not openly||Used to be|
|Would he fit?
|Can they afford him?
With contributions from Fabrizio Ponciroli (Italy), Laetitia Jacquesson (France), Marie Ange Kostoff (France), and Sean Carroll (UK)