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It may have been on the cards for a long time, but finally Keisuke Honda has decided to make the step up from CSKA Moscow to one of the world’s biggest clubs, AC Milan. Honda for already around 4 years has been capturing the attention of many of a big club, but only now has he decided that the time was right to make that move.
And for Milan, the transfer has come at a perfect time. The Italians are currently having their worst Serie A campaign for a very long time and only just squeezed into the last 16 of Champions League, and even if Honda can’t compete in Europe for them yet having already played for CSKA, they will be hoping that he can help turn around their domestic fortunes.
If you think that Milan are having a bad enough season, Honda’s already former club CSKA are not faring much better. Despite being the present holders of all three Russian trophies, the Russian Premier League, the Russian Cup and Super Cup, they have seriously flattered to deceive this time around.
Although they have gained ground on current Russian league leaders Zenit Saint Petersburg recently, in the Champions League they had a group stage to forget. Being drawn in a group alongside Manchester City and Bayern Munich didn’t do them any favours, but losing out to Czech minnows Viktoria Plzen for the Europa League spot was rightly so deemed simply unacceptable. And they still had possession of Honda at that time.
Not that he had been looking himself in the last few months of his CSKA career. As soon as he returned to Moscow from the Confederations Cup in Brazil last year, rumours starting circling that his departure for AC Milan was imminent, even Honda himself came out to the media stating that he had already started learning Italian.
CSKA weren’t willing to let him go, even though they knew full well that they would not make any profit on him at all when his contract ended in the winter and the player would be free to go where he wanted. And when a player knows that whatever happens he’ll be moving on, it’s hard to give 100%.
That’s exactly what happened, with Honda giving pretty poor performances not only in the Russian league but in the Champions League too, where he missed some guilt edged opportunities against Manchester City and Bayern.
That didn’t put Milan off though and why should it, he’s already shown time and time again that he is a playmaker of the highest calibre. Honda can strike a dead ball well as he has shown plenty of times in a Japan shirt, and for Milan he’s a player that can help them a lot right now. Just the thought of Kaka running at them and Honda sitting just behind the forwards ready to make an incisive pass at any moment should start to make their opponents scared of them again.
If it’s going to solve all of Milan’s problems though, it’s a different question. In the last few years Italian football has been gradually slipping further and further behind the rest of Europe, and it doesn’t seem that a repeat of Milan’s Champions League triumph in 2007 is forthcoming any time soon. And with Honda being cup-tied for the Champions League this season, the move certainly doesn’t help them out in that respect.
But in Italy the move could help them out to get back to winning ways. With Stephan El Shaarawy still sitting on the sidelines the Milanese have lacked a bit of star quality in recent weeks and to rely on Mario Balotelli every game just isn’t good enough.
Honda will take up the mantle of being playmaker in chief along with Kaka, and the two should complement each other. While Kaka is at his best when moving at speed with the ball, Honda will get in the right positions either waiting for an opportunity to score himself, or to be in a great position to make a cutting pass.
How long it takes them to build up team chemistry is of course the big question, and also if new coach Clarence Seedorf will trust Honda enough to give him a lot of playing time. Things certainly haven’t started off to badly, with Honda having already bagged his first goal for the club in a 3-1 Italian Cup win against Spezia.
In the long run, despite Honda already being 27 years of age, it should turn out to be a very good bit of transfer market business. Maybe he should have already a long time ago made the move to a supposedly bigger club than CSKA, but his chance has arrived and he will now have more pressure on him to produce the goods than ever before.
Milan may not be the force they once were but it’s a club steeped in tradition, and with such a player on their books, they should look into the future with a bit more optimism.
Written by Shaun Nicolaides
Follow Shaun on Twitter – zenitfan93
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