Keisuke Honda is an indispensable member of Takeshi Okada’s team. A prolific midfielder who will turn 24 the day before Japan kick-off their South Africa 2010 campaign, he dazzled for CSKA Moscow in the deep waters of the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League, playing a critical role in their unforeseen charge to the quarter-finals.
Honda started out at Nagoya Grampus, scoring 11 goals in 90 games for the club between 2005 and 2008. His former Gamba coach Sef Vergoossen then took him to VVV-Venlo, and it didn’t take the player, who can also operate at left-wingback, long to illuminate the Dutch Eredivisie.
After scoring 24 times in 64 matches, there was significant interest in Honda. Liverpool, Everton, PSV and Ajax were among those reportedly interested in him, but it was CSKA Moscow that won the race for his signature in January 2010, to the cost of €6m.
Honda made his CSKA debut in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Sevilla. The first 90 minutes had ended 1-1 in Russia and the Spaniards were, therefore, the clear favourites to progess. However, after setting up his side’s first goal, Honda sealed a 2-1 victory with a superb free-kick, becoming the first Japanese player to score in the knockout phase of the competition in the process. He then impressed in the quarter-finals, despite CSKA’s narrow aggregate defeat by Inter Milan.
Honda, who represented Japan at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2005 and the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament three years later, made his full international debut in 2008 and is regarded as one of Asian football’s brightest talents.