Asian football expert @JohnnyDuerden says Wanderers’ new Japanese signing, attacker Jumpei Kusukami, is an exciting talent and may just rival his hero Shinji Ono for a place in the hearts of those passionate red and black fans.
Shinji Ono is already a legend of the Hyundai A-League club and while Kusukami does not have the stellar international career of the former Feyenoord phenom, he is an example of just how much talent there is in Japan.
Kusukami, who turns 29 next month, will provide creativity and a little unpredictably on the left side of the Wanderers’ attack but is just as happy to dribble at defenders on the opposite flank.
The winger made his debut for Kawasaki Frontale in 2009 but really started to claim a place in the team during the following season, playing over 20 games and scoring three goals.
After four seasons in total with the Kanagawa club, the Shiga native headed to Cerezo Osaka.
Brazilian star Pablo Felipe Teixeira was impressed with his team mate in Japan’s second city.
“I am a big fan of his,” the former Real Madrid B man said in 2015. “I love the way he plays.
“He makes things happen and he makes the fans happy too, the fans always love exciting players and Jumpei is exciting.”
He showed flashes of his talent with the Flaming Pinks though injuries did not help.
His winning goal of the game at home to Ehime last season was a delight – a perfectly timed run into space on the right and the lifting of a bouncing ball over the goalkeeper from the edge of the area.
“It was a goal worthy of winning any match, “ said Cerezo coach Paulo Autuori at the time.
“Kusukami’s intelligent running and energy unsettled the defenders and created space for others. When he is fit and in form, he is a real asset to the team.”
Unfortunately, Cerezo just missed out on promotion to the top tier and Autuori was heading home to Brazil.
Kusukami’s contract expired but he ended up with promotion anyway, joining Sagan Tosu.
Tosu have established a reputation since arriving in the top flight of the J.League of playing more direct and aggressive football than most competitors.
Struggling for game time with a club that was perhaps not the right fit, Kusakami decided to become the fourth Japanese player to head to the Western Sydney Wanderers.
In the AFC Champions League, his pace and dribbling skills could provide a valuable counter-attacking outlet in those tricky away games when backs are against the wall.
Observers in Japan feel that if he is given time to adapt, a sustained run in the team and an opportunity to build an understanding with his team-mates, then he could be a real find for Wanderers as they look to end their A-League grand final drought (three finales, no wins as yet).
And what a stage for Kusukami’s potential league debut – a Sydney derby that looms as the biggest in the clash’s spectacular four-year history.
On October 8, Wanderers host Sydney FC on the opening weekend of the new season at ANZ Stadium – a venue that might just break the record for an A-League crowd with some tipping up to 80,000!
Whatever the crowd, it’ll be some welcome to the A-League if the Japanese winger does debut.
“It’s my honour to join the Western Sydney Wanderers, one of the best clubs in Asian football. It’s a huge opportunity for me, so I would like to give my best to the Wanderers,” Kusukami said in a statement.
“I was told that fans of Wanderers are the best and most enthusiastic in the world by my idol, Shinji Ono. I look forward to this new adventure and to play in front of the fans. I believe I can help the Wanderers win titles and play AFC Champions League again.”
If he can do so, Jumpei Kusukami will be as fondly remembered by fans of his new club as Ono. It would be quite the achievement.