He landed on Tuesday morning, signed autographs at Melbourne Airport, travelled to his new training base, met his manager and high performance staff, underwent medical tests and finally, this morning, Keisuke Honda has spoken to the media for the first time as a Hyundai A-League player.
The former AC Milan and CSKA Moscow star sat alongside Melbourne Victory head coach Kevin Muscat and spoke glowingly of his admiration for his new coach in a press conference which revealed a number of insights into how the move came about.
As reported on A-League.com.au’s coverage, Honda revealed how he was on the brink of retirement until the offer from Victory made him do a complete U-turn. Here are seven things we learned:
Muscat was the man who sealed the deal
“He’s an ambitious person and I’m an ambitious person as well so I’m really inspired by him.”
Honda revealed that it wasn’t until he spoke directly to Kevin Muscat that his decision was made:
“To be honest, I changed my mind after I spoke to Kevin directly,” said Honda. “I get how he’s a determined person. He said to me how he wants to succeed as a club. He’s an ambitious person and I’m an ambitious person as well so I’m really inspired by him. I think that’s the big meeting for me.”
Honda will be used flexibly in Victory’s attack
“Our members and fans should be excited about the prospect because we’ve got some real flexibility now in our attacking sense.”
Having the option of moving Honda around the front line seems to be key for Muscat:
“It’s given me a great deal of time to think about how we set up but, rest assured, our members and fans should be excited about the prospect because we’ve got some real flexibility now in our attacking sense,” Muscat said.
“Melbourne Victory members and fans over the years have been treated to some real attacking football and it’s been a mantra of the club and a philosophy of the club, certainly in recent years anyway, so that’ll continue with a great deal of flexibility now in that front third of the park.”
Muscat is not ruling out Honda making his bow in the FFA Cup next week
“We’ll have to wait and see. Look, I’m not ruling it out.”
Muscat admits that Honda’s upcoming training sessions will reveal how ready he is to play but next Tuesday’s clash against APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Leichhardt Oval is not out of the question.
“Keisuke arrived yesterday, we’ll starting working immediately with Keisuke to find out where he is physically. The medical is concluded and there are no issues whatsoever. However, there will be no risks taken but having said that, we’ll get straight to work in seeing where Keisuke is physically and when he’s ready, he’ll make his debut."
Honda can help Victory do better than ever before in the AFC Champions League
“Reflecting on past [AFC Champions League] campaigns, we wanted to do something different and get that extra advantage, that extra yard.”
Muscat is determined to make progress in the AFC Champions League and believes Honda could be a weapon to help Victory flourish on the big stage – not to mention his Asian football insight:
“We were expressing in an honest manner our ambitions and what we’re trying to achieve,” Muscat said. “This season is our seventh opportunity where we venture into the Champions League in Asia, which gives Keisuke the opportunity for the first time to go back to Japan and play against a club side in Japan.
“He’s played many internationals there and been away from Japan for a number of years but, there’s a real drive about what we want to do as a football club and what we want to achieve. After winning the championship last season, and reflecting on past campaigns, we wanted to do something different and get that extra advantage, that extra yard, and I said from the outset that having Keisuke here as a footballer is the most important thing for me.”
Muscat assures Honda’s priority is the Hyundai A-League
“First and foremost, Keisuke’s priority is here at Melbourne Victory.”
Honda recently announced he will be involved in the management of the Cambodian national team, but Muscat was firm in his position that the Japan international will be fully focused on his Hyundai A-League commitments:
“Keisuke and his management team, and his brother, were completely open and honest about Keisuke’s motivations and plans in the future and the long and short of it is, first and foremost, Keisuke’s priority is here at Melbourne Victory. He will no way compromise any of our games or even to that extent, training sessions.”
Honda states that he has one main focus
“My colleagues in the Japan and the US and everywhere are helping my activities, that’s why I can focus on playing soccer.”
Honda himself was quick to quash the talk about his attention being elsewhere:
“Firstly I’m a player of Melbourne Victory from today so I have to focus on playing well for the fans, teammates and everyone here,” Honda said. “I look forward to playing as soon as possible. I am doing a lot of things besides soccer but that’s no big issues. My colleagues in the Japan and the US and everywhere are helping my activities, that’s why I can focus on playing soccer.”
Honda wants to perfect his Aussie lingo
“At first I want to learn Australian English.”
He didn’t rattle off a ‘G’day’ to greet the assembled crowd, but Honda is keen to add heaps more Aussie-isms to his vocab:
“At first I want to learn Australian English," Honda said. “I take English lessons every day and I want to improve my English more. I’m excited because I came here last time for Asian Cup. Not only me, but other teammates liked Melbourne very much so I look forward to living here with my family.”
RELIVE THE PRESS CONFERENCE: Honda and Muscat address the media
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