Why Asian star is ideal Benteke replacement at Aston Villa

Japan National Team 2008

Shinji Okazaki has been linked with Liverpool, Arsenal and Leicester City in the past and is in prolific form at present in the German Bundesliga

Just 24 hours on from their FA Cup heroics and Aston Villa find themselves back in the sporting headlines – thought not for the reasons many fans would have hoped.

Because, just a day on from a momentous 2-1 win over Liverpool at Wembley that was kick-started by Christian Benteke’s first-half equaliser, the very same Belgian is being linked with a move away from the club.

The Daily Star are among those to claim that Manchester United have identified the 24-year-old as a possible summer transfer target.

Having seen former stars like Mark Bosnich, Dwight Yorke and Ashley Young depart for Champions League football at Old Trafford, Villa fans may already fear the worst.

But even if Benteke does exit the club for a fee somewhere in the region of the £24 million quoted in the report, the club need not panic.

That’s because there may be a ready-made replacement for the Belgian waiting in the wings and desperate for a move to the Premier League.

Shinji Okazaki is the latest Japanese star to have made a name for himself in Europe following on from Blue Samurai teammates Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa.

Very much the finished article at 29, the striker has nevertheless impressed, starring for unfashionable Mainz in the German Bundesliga for the past two years.

Having scored 15 goals in 35 appearances during his debut season at the club, the Asian forward soon found himself being linked with a whole host of Premier League sides.

Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur were all linked with Okazaki in a report published by The Express back in October, while even more recently still Leicester City were thought to be keen on ironing out a deal for the forward, if the Daily Star is to be believed.

"It has been a dream of mine since my youth to play in the Premier League and I have been watching the Premier League since I turned pro,” Okazaki claimed back in January in quotes published by talkSport.

Leicester may be launching a late bid for survival, following a run of three wins on the bounce, but with the club already recruiting Croatian forward Andrej Kramaric this January, another bid looks unlikely.

That could clear the way for Villa to grant Okazaki his Premier League wish and on current form it would not be a bad move.

The 29-year-old looks on course to improve on his goal tally for the season, having already notched up 14 in 31 Bundesliga outings this term.

An excellent finisher and passer of the ball, Okazaki was on target for Mainz in their 3-2 away win over Freiburg last time out, netting a brace to ease any possible relegation fears the side may have had.

Likely to be keen to take the next step in his career with a move to England, Villa should consider obliging.

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