Ibusuki’s star about to rise

Ibusuki’s star about to rise

By Paul Williams

Japan is not short on young, attacking talent with the likes of Takashi Usami, Takashi Inui and Hiroshi Kiyotake considered the future when it comes to the national team.

Hiroshi Ibusuki has been a standout for Sevilla Athletic

But one name constantly overlooked is that of Hiroshi Ibusuki - the tall, vegetable-loving striker who is on the verge of breaking into La Liga side Sevilla.

His profile back in his homeland is almost non-existent, with little known of a player who could one day lead the line for the Samurai Blue at a World Cup.

Ibusuki, who grew up in Nagareyama, Chiba and enjoys reading books, was introduced to football by his grandfather at an early age and his talent quickly earned him a place in the youth set up of Kashiwa Reysol.

“(At Kashiwa) I learned tactics, the basic of football and morals under coach Tatsuma Yoshida. I’m very thankful for that,” Ibusuki explained.

He had decided early that a career in Europe was the path he wanted to take.

“I considered my vision for the future and thought that I would have a better chance to achieve my goals if I moved to Europe,” he told JSoccer Magazine recently.

“Europe is at the top of the world of football now, and it is natural that every player wants to play there.

“Japanese football has been gradually improving and I guess overseas scouts are starting to recognise Japanese players.”

That move to Europe eventuated when the striker was just 18 years old, linking up with Spanish second division side Girona FC after impressing on trial. He would play only a handful of games for Girona in his two years at the club, spending most of his time on loan – first at Real Zaragoza B then with CE Sabadell the following season.

In those two seasons he played a combined 67 games across the three clubs and scored 22 goals, a great return for a young kid getting his first taste of football in a foreign country, a testament to his ability to settle into Spanish life so quickly.

“I had no difficulty adjusting myself to Spanish football. But it was tough to live by myself for the first time,” he said.

After two years he captured the attention of Sevilla Atletico, the B team of La Liga side Sevilla, eventually sealing a move in the European summer of 2011.

“Hiroshi is an area player, with the capacity to score goals,” Ramon Tejada, the manager of Sevilla Atletico, told JSoccer Magazine.

Ibusuki was named in Japan’s preliminary squad for the 2012 Olympic Games

“We needed a multi-talented player, who gives us the possibility to play a direct game. He offers to broaden the range of actions of the teams style of play.”

Asked to name his strengths, Tejada highlighted three areas of Ibusuki’s game – “His protection of the ball, the ability to play with his back towards the goal and his runs into the box to receive balls from the flanks,” he said.

While he signed as a member of Sevilla Atletico, who play in Spain’s third division, it wasn’t long before Ibusuki was on the fringes of the senior, earning a call up to the senior side in November for their clash against Mallorca.

While he would remain on the bench and not see any game time, it gave Ibusuki the confidence that a debut La Liga game wasn’t far away.

“I think I’m slowly but surely getting close to that (a La Liga debut),” he admitted.

“I was able to adapt to the team well and I think I’m not doing so bad so far. But I still have a long way to go this season, so I want to keep working and stay focused.”

But while a La Liga debut still awaits, his form for Sevilla Atletico is enough to warrant genuine excitement. 18 games and 11 goals in his first six months is a fantastic return for any striker anywhere in the world. What does he put his form down to?

“I think that’s because I can now speak Spanish,” he jokes.

But Tejada is ensuring his feet stay firmly planted on the ground, setting big goals for the young striker for the final few months of the season.

“I’m happy with his performance as a goal-scorer. His services were acquired to score goals and we hope that by the end of the season he can reach 20,” he admitted.

However, if he does Sevilla could find themselves in a Catch 22 situation – the better he performs, the better for the prospects of Sevilla Atletico this season. However, it will also attract the attention of other clubs, with rumours already circling that Real Zaragoza are interested in acquiring his services.

Ibusuki, for his part, is remaining coy on his future plans, saying only “it depends on the situation after the season” when asked on his plans for the future.

His form isn’t going unnoticed at national level either, with a handful of appearances at both U19 and U22 level. His standout performance was undoubtedly the 2010 AFC U19 Championships in China where he scored four goals in three games, including a brace in the Quarter Final against fierce East Asian rivals Korea Republic.

But it wasn’t enough to secure the win for Japan as Korea fought back from a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 and book a place at the 2011 FIFA U20 World Cup.

Ibusuki is a future star of the national team

Playing for the national team is something Ibusuki honours and he has targeted a place in the Olympic team, although he admits it’s difficult given he is based in Europe.

“I want to play in the Olympics,” he says openly.

“It is difficult for me to participate in U-23 training camps constantly because I’m playing overseas, but I’m confident of getting a good result if I get a chance.”

He is even brave enough to declare that he thinks he is a chance to make the 2014 World Cup squad should he become a regular for Sevilla.

“Yes, I do (think I can make the squad). But all I can do now is to focus on the things in front of me,” he said.

“I need to improve all areas of my game and my goal is to keep scoring goals.”

It’s that kind of level headedness and maturity that has seen Ibusuki blossom into the player he is and it will hold him in good stead as he continues his career.

While Usami, Inui and Kiyotake may be getting more headlines and plaudits at the moment, Ibusuki is building a nice career for himself away from the spotlight.

But if his current form continues it won’t be long before the rest of Japan sit up and take notice.

Oh, and the vegetables.

“I love eating vegetables,” he said when asked to name one thing people may not know about him.

Now you know.

This article first appeared in Issue 3 of JSoccer Magazine in March. To purchase your copy of the magazine, as well as previous and current editions, visit www.jsoccer.com

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