Yuki Abe is one of JEF United’s finest-ever products. Having played for JEF junior academy during his junior high school years, he was promoted into their youth academy for high school age students.
Before his graduation from high school, Abe had already made waves. The versatile player, who can be deployed in defence or midfield, made his professional debut in August 1998, when he was only 16. He was, at the time, the J.League’s youngest all-time debutant, although that record has since been broken. Abe was the key player for JEF after that.
Abe’s game improved significantly under the rule of Ivica Osim, who coached JEF for three seasons from 2003. He was named in the J.League’s best XI in 2005 and 2006, before moving to Urawa Red Diamonds in 2007 for what was at the time a record fee for a Japanese player. The Ichikawa native made a grand contribution to the Reds winning the AFC Champions League 2007, and turned out at the FIFA Club World Cup that same year.
Abe made his international debut in 2005 and has been a regular in the Japan squad since, winning most his caps as an intelligent defensive midfielder.