There are few commodities as sought after or as valuable as young talent in the modern game. The resulting scramble for potential and promise has since gone global in recent years, with clubs now pouring increasingly vast amounts of resources into developing regions, hoping to strike gold before their rivals.
Yet while extending their scouting networks and building soccer schools is giving clubs a foot hold in potential hotbeds such as America and Africa, the once maligned Asian market is now catching the eye, as more and more European outfits profit after testing the water.
The hunt is now on for the next Asian star, who could follow in the footsteps of Arsenal's Japanese High school starlet Ryo Miyaichi, Bolton's stylish South Korea winger Lee Chung-Young, and Dortmund's Bundesliga Champion Shinji Kagawa. Interested clubs need look no further than Hiroshi Kiyotake.
Kiyotake is 21-year-old attacking midfielder, and the current star of the J-League season, having replaced Kagawa in the Cerezo Osaka team following his move to Dortmund last summer. Technically excellent and with a consistently good first touch, Hiroshi has superb intelligence, not only in his awareness of space and runs into the box, but vitally, pass selection.
He's already earned three caps for the Japanese national team, and should have earned enough by next year to qualify outright for a United Kingdom work permit. At present, Kiyotake is also part of a strong batch of players at Under-22 level, regarded by many as a group who will finally wipe out the Asian football stereotype of poor technical level and questionable physique.
At 21, Kiyotake has done the majority of his physical development. He's five foot eight inches tall, and while isn't muscular or aggressive, his low centre of gravity, awareness of play, good pace and inspiring heart make him a good match in 50:50 battles and help get him out of difficult situations.
The only question marks come over Kiyotake's adaptability to play on the wing, which shouldn't be an issue, and his ruthlessness in front of goal. The Oita-born prospect has good accuracy in short and long range shooting, but lacks a little killer instinct when in the box.
He needs some some polishing, but this gem looks destined for Europe in the next 12 months.Reuse content