Japan's World Cup hero and rookie of the year - in-depth look at Leeds United target Yosuke Ideguchi

WITH Leeds United lining up a January move for Japan international Yosuke Ideguchi, Lee Sobot takes a deeper look at what the 21-year-old has achieved so far.

Man of the moment and World Cup hero for Japan

Despite having only turned 21 last month, Ideguchi has already represented the Japanese national side on three occasions with the midfielder earning his first call-ups for the games against Oman and Saudi Arabia in November of last year.

Ideguchi then did not feature in Japan’s next four World Cup qualifying games though the midfielder was an unused substitute for the 1-1 draw with hosts Iraq on June 13.

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The 21-year-old then started Japan’s World Cup qualifier against Australia in Saitama on August 31 in which he netted an absolute rocket as Japan booked their place in next year’s World Cup.

With his men leading 1-0 with eight minutes left, Ideguchi cut inside before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the top right corner which had the entire Japanese bench on their feet as their side booked their ticket to Russia.

The midfielder also started Japan’s next game - another World Cup Qualifier which resulted in a 1-0 loss against Saudi Arabia in Jeddah on September 5.

That means Ideguchi has played the full 90 minutes of Japan’s last two games.

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Following his outing and goal against Australia, Ideguchi told domestic media: “I was slow switching between defence and attack and that is something I need to fix.

“(Those qualities) are what the coach wants from me. They are my strengths and what I want to keep on showing.

“I just want to show quality, and keep improving in defence and attack.”

Japan’s top flight and Asian Champions League

Ideguchi has been signed with Japanese top flight side Gamba Osaka since 2009 after beginning his youth career at Aburayama Kameriazu.

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After signing pro terms in 2014, the midfielder made his debut for Gamba in 2015 - the season after the Osaka side won the league - and Ideguchi has gone on to make 45 appearances for his club, netting seven times.

Gamba ply their trade in the J1 League - Japan’s top division - and finished fourth out of 18 teams last season, qualifying for the 2017 Asian Football Confederation Champions League.

Gamba qualified for the group stages after beating Malaysian outfit Johor Darul Ta’zim in the East Region play-off round but the Japanese side finished bottom of their group, behind fellow Japanese outfit Jiangsu Suning (group winners), South Korean side Jeju United (second) and Australia’s Adelaide United.

But after winning the JLeague in 2014, Gamba have featured in the Asian Champions League for the last three years having also finished third in the JLeague in 2015.

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In 2015, the year after they won the JLeague, Gamba made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Asian Champions League where they were ousted by Chinese outfit Guangzhou Evergrande who went on to win the competition.

The 2017 JLeague season started on February 25 and will end on December 2. Gamba Osaka currently sit seventh.

Small in stature but highly-acclaimed

Ideguchi measures up at just five-foot-seven inches and a half but the 21-year-old is described as a box-to-box midfielder and the Japanese international picked up two awards during the 2016 JLeague season with Gamba Osaka.

The Leeds United target collected both the New Hero Award and most notably of all the Rookie of the Year accolade.

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The 2015 Rookie of the Year award was won by fellow Japanese international Takuma Asano who went on to sign for Arsenal.

But 23-year-old forward Asano was refused a work permit to play in the Premier League after being signed in July 2016 and was loaned out to VfB Stuttgart the following month.

Asano - who has 12 caps for Japan - is now back on loan at Stuttgart for another season and the forward has played 30 times for the German side who were promoted to the Bundesliga last season as Bundesliga2 champions.

Work permit issues?

If Ideguchi failed to receive a work permit to play in England through not playing enough games - as was the case with Arsenal recruit Asano - then the midfielder could potentially be loaned out to play for someone else in a different European league.

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United’s summer recruit Ouasim Bouy is already on loan at Spanish Segunda Division side Cultural Leonesa.

Ideguchi reportedly has a £700,000 release clause at Gamba Osaka and the midfielder is understood to have been learning English.

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