The Japanese imports set to break new ground in 2020/21

A record-breaking five Japanese imports are set to grace clubs around the A-League, as the the 2020/21 campaign draws ever closer.

Western United defender Tomoki Imai is joined by recent Brisbane Roar signings Masato Kudo and Riku Danzaki, exciting Melbourne City forward Naoki Tsubaki and Perth Glory recruit Kosuke Ota in making up the five Japanese players signed to A-League clubs to date. 

Of the 13 Japanese players (including Imai but not including the league's four new imports) to have played in the A-League throughout the years, there have never been five to feature in the same season, however three competed in both the 2005/06 and 2012/13 campaigns.

Japanese players have produced both stories of success and forgetful cameos throughout the A-League's history, with the impact of both Shinji Ono's legendary Wanderers stint and Keisuke Honda's whirlwind Victory stay unearthing the true potential of Japanese megastars to leave a significant impact on Australian football.

And now, as clubs around the league are recruiting more Japanese players than ever before ahead of a new campaign, the potential for the A-League to find its next Japanese star has never been greater.

Read on for everything you need to know about the A-League's crop of recruits from Japan ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.

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Masato Kudo - Brisbane Roar

Brisbane Roar fans have reason to be excited by the club's recruitment of experienced Japanese international Masato Kudo ahead of the 2020/21 season.

Kudo is J1 League side Kashiwa Reysol’s all-time leading goalscorer, with 92 goals in 263 games.

The 30-year-old has four caps for his national side earned throughout a club career which has garnered one J1 League title to go with winners medals in the J. League Cup, Emperor’s Cup and Japanese Super Cup.

Kudo's wealth of experience in the top flight of Japanese football will not only position the striker as a dangerous threat to opposition defences in the A-League, but comes as a serious asset for Roar boss Warren Moon, who has another Japanese forward to play alongside Kudo in the upcoming campaign.

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Masato Kudo

Riku Danzaki - Brisbane Roar

20-year-old attacker Riku Danzaki has the raw potential to become a serious threat for the Roar, with fellow countryman and Japanese veteran Kudo teaching him all of his tricks in the 2020/21 campaign.

Danzaki became Brisbane's first Japanese signing of the off-season when he joined in mid-November from  J1 League club Consadole Sapporo.

Debuting for the club at 18, Danzaki went on to make the majority of his appearances for Consadole Sapporo in the J1 League Cup, before making the move to the Roar.

Upon signing for the club Danzaki outlined his key strengths as a player: joining attacks, scoring and creating goals, and the exciting young forward could become an enormous asset for Moon's side if he can learn from his time spent alongside Kudo this season.

Naoki Tsubaki - Melbourne City

Ange Postecoglu has delivered Patrick Kisnorbo and his Melbourne City squad the exciting prospect of nurturing the talent of 20-year-old attacker Naoki Tsubaki, on loan from Yokohama F. Marinos for the duration of the 2020/21 A-League campaign.

Tsubaki is a largely unproven quantity, with the majority of his experience coming during a two-season loan spell at J2 side Giravanz Kitakyushu where he made 39 appearances, before returning to Postecoglu's Yokohama and departing for Australian shores.

Tsubaki has national team experience under his belt, having featured for Japan's U-17 side in eight friendlies and three U-17 World Cup fixtures in 2017. 

The young forward's wing play is sure to receive a boost as he trains and plays alongside talented and knowledgeable winger Craig Noone day in, day out, and with Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout spearheading City's attack Tsubaki is sure to receive plenty of joy expressing himself in City's attacking brigade. 

Kosuke Ota - Perth Glory

Kosuke Ota heads west to join a youthful Perth Glory outfit set to greatly benefit from the Japanese defender's wealth of experience in the 2020/21 A-League campaign. 

Providing Ota receives medical clearance to join Richard Garcia's squad, the 33-year-old will arrive in Perth with almost 300 games of football played in Japan under his belt, split between Shimizu S-Pulse, FC Tokyo and Nagoya Grampus.

A further two seasons of European football at Dutch side Vitesse add to his seven international caps for Japan, including an appearance in a friendly against Australia in 2014. 

Ota can play as a traditional left-back or more progressive wing-back; Perth have struggled to replace the impact of Premiership winner Jason Davidson who excelled in similar roles in Glory's 2018/19 season, but if Ota can bed in to Garcia's side and hit the ground running he may just pose a similar threat to Perth's former flying full-back in the new A-League campaign.

Kosuke Ota
Ota battles Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder James Troisi for the ball in a friendly between Japan and Australia in 2014

Tomoki Imai - Western United

Tomoki Imai is the fourth Japanese player currently signed to an A-League club for the 2020/21 season, however his talent is well known to the league after an impressive debut for Western United in 2019/20.

Imai re-signed with the club in October after initially joining the Green and Black in February this year.

Previous to his Australian stay the 30-year-old twice won the J2 League title, firstly with Omiya Ardija in 2015 and then with Matsumoto Yamaga in 2018. Between these titles Imai enjoyed a three-year spell at Kashiwa Reysol, where he briefly played alongside Roar signing Kudo in 2015.

After arriving at Western United, Imai quickly became a vital member of Mark Rudan's defensive line, and after making the decision to stay in Victoria instead of returning to Japan the defender will be out to build on his promising 12-game start to life in the A-League in the 2020/21 campaign.

Tomoki Imai