Ryo Nagai: My best yet to come

Ryo Nagai says his best is yet to come and he is determined to find it before the season ends. The Japanese import keen to prove his worth to the Glory.

Between several nagging injuries, a change in coach, language difficulties, cultural differences and a limited number of first-team opportunities, the seven months Ryo Nagai has spent at Perth Glory have certainly been challenging ones.

Yet the Japanese 21-year-old believes that the experience has been an invaluable one and remains desperate to use the remaining games of the A-League campaign to prove his worth to both the club's management and fans.

"As soon as I arrived," he said. "I wanted to play and show my skills, but I got a couple of injuries and didn't have the start to my time in Australia that I would have liked.

"I haven't performed at 100 per cent yet, the Glory fans haven't seen me at my very best, but we have four or five games to go until the end of the season and I want to show everybody my best performances between now and then.

"I've had a great experience here, something I know will really help me in the future and hopefully will help me achieve my long-term ambition to play and be a success in Europe."

That ambition was of course well and truly fulfilled by Nagai's compatriot, Shinji Ono, prior to his arrival at Western Sydney Wanderers where he has made such a huge impact in the club's maiden A-League campaign.

And the Glory man believes that the success of the marquee midfielder could prompt an influx of Japanese imports over the next few years.

"I think Shinji has opened the door for Japanese players in terms of coming to the A-League," he said.

"I believe that Australian football clubs and fans now realise the potential of Japanese players and I think we'll see a lot of younger players coming here from Japan, along with more established, more famous ones like Shinji.

"Shinji's move informed a lot of Japanese players about the A-League really for the first time.

"It's opened their minds in terms of seeing Australia as a new football destination."

Like Ono, Nagai has been impressed by the overall standard of the Australian domestic game, not only during his four starts and seven substitute appearances for Glory, but also on a daily basis at training.

"The technical level of the football has been higher here than I thought it would be," he said. "There are a lot of very skilful players.

"I knew that the players here would be very strong physically and they are, but they are also very strong mentally and really highly motivated as well."

While he feels he has coped fairly well with the footballing challenges that have confronted him, the former Japan Under-19 international has found linguistic obstacles rather more difficult to overcome.

"Fergie (former Glory coach Ian Ferguson) spoke Scottish English," he said with a smile. "And that seems to be very different from Australian English.

"I sometimes found it hard to understand what Fergie was saying and I certainly understand the new coach, Alistair (Edwards), a lot better.

"Also, Fergie would say go and get a goal, whereas Alistair will explain in detail the process of how to go and get a goal.

"They have different approaches, but they are both good coaches."

In terms of his short-term future, the young attacker admits that it remains somewhat up in the air.

Having opted to extend his loan deal from J-League side Cerezo Osaka until the end of April, he cannot now return to play competitively for his parent club until the loan window re-opens in late August.

"I chose to stay longer with Glory," he said. "That's how important I felt it was to come and play here and prove myself.

"It would be hard to keep my motivation if I went back to Cerezo and just trained with them knowing that I couldn't play any games for them until August, but Glory haven't spoken to me or my agent about staying here to play again next season."

Whether he lines up for the men in purple next term or not, Nagai remains focused on one day making that dream move to Europe where Shinji Kagawa and several other of his former Cerezo Osaka team-mates are already shining at the very highest level.

"I was actually having a meal with Kagawa just before he finalised the paperwork to complete his move to Manchester United," he said.

"Obviously he's been pretty busy since then and we haven't been in touch for a while, but I'm in contact with a couple of Japanese players at Nuremberg, including Hiroshi Kiyotake, and my dream is to join them playing over there."