Yasuyuki Konno had almost given up on becoming a professional footballer when he was discovered by Takeshi Okada in 2001. The defender had been released by Vegalta Sendai and was on the verge of joining an amateur club when the current Japan coach noticed his potential and took him to Consadole Sapporo.
Konno spent three seasons at the club, two of those in the J.League, and impressed as a defensive midfielder. During his time at Sapporo, he also represented Japan at the AFC Asian U-19 Championship and the FIFA U-20 World Cup UAE 2003.
He moved to FC Tokyo in 2004, helped them win the J.League Cup in his first season in the capital, and has since become a mainstay of their team. In recent years, Konno has evolved into a tough-tackling centre-back who is also capable of playing at full-back.
The Sendai native made his international debut in 2005, finishing it as man of the match against China PR in the East Asian Championship. He was nonetheless overlooked by then-coach Zico for Germany 2006.
However, Okada’s appointment into the Japan hot-seat was good news for Konno, who has featured regularly in his nation’s squad since.