It is almost two years since Leeds United signed a little-known Japanese midfielder by the name of Yosuke Ideguchi.
A £500,000 arrival from Gamba Osaka, the-then 21-year-old rocked up at Elland Road with an impressive CV and a burgeoning reputation. He won the J-League’s Rookie of the Year award in 2016 and was just starting to establish himself in the Japan national team when he caught the eye of the West Yorkshire giants.
It was his fierce drive in a vital win against Australia which secured Japan’s place at the 2018 World Cup after all.
But if Ideguchi was hoping that a move to England would help take his career to a whole new level, it’s fair to say he didn’t expect to be heading back home just 18 months later, his reputation having taken a battering during an ill-fated spell at Leeds.
Ideguchi failed to make a single appearance in the famous white shirt, struggled during a spell at sister club Cultural Leonesa and then suffered a serious injury on loan at Greuther Furth. Missing out on a place in the 2018 World Cup squad was the biggest blow of all, the Fukuoka-born youngster going from rising star to forgotten man in the blinking of an eye.
Barely anyone noticed when Ideguchi returned to Gamba Osaka in a permanent deal this summer. But how is one of Leeds’ oddest signings in years faring since heading back to where it all began?
Well, he’s certainly making up for lost time, replacing 93-cap legend Yasuyuki Konno at the heart of Gamba Osaka’s midfield and starting the last five league games.
“He’s settled well. He was always a good player. He has that touch of malice and he’s prepared to be hard, where many Japanese players aren’t,” Alan Gibson, the editor of JSoccer magazine, told HITC. “I’m sure he will be back in the national team soon after a good start.
“I think his confidence will have taken a hit after all those injuries, changes of managers, teams etc. But he was, and will be, definitely good enough for the English second tier at least.”
Ideguchi will be hoping to add to his 12 international caps sooner rather than later and, who knows, maybe a return to England could soon be on the cards for a player who remains one of the most promising young talents in Asian football.
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