Schalke defender Atsuto Uchida sets many Japanese female football supporters’ hearts aflutter, but beneath the handsome face is a fiercely determined, hard-working, attack-minded player who has proven himself in the Bundesliga.
Uchida’s pro career began at J.League giants Kashima Antlers in 2006. He was a regular starter in his debut season, with his attacking forays a potent weapon as Kashima stormed to three consecutive league titles. He was earmarked as one of the rising stars of Japanese football and duly made his Samurai Blue debut in 2008. Despite selection for Japan’s squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, Uchida spent the tournament on the bench.
In a bid to test his game at an even higher level, Uchida signed on the dotted line with Schalke in 2010. The right-back has produced some eye-catching performances in both the German league and the UEFA Champions League, where Schalke reached the semi-finals in 2011.
It must therefore be said that his achievements place him among the upper echelon of Japan’s contingent of Europe-based players. Fleet-footed and incisive, Uchida’s combination with Inter Milan’s dynamic left-back Yuta Nagatomo gives Japan genuine forward-thinking options in both full-back positions.