Melbourne Victory have landed the biggest A-League signing in years, with Japanese star Keisuke Honda to join the club on a one-year deal. set to commit to joining the club for the upcoming 2018-19 season.
The Victory announced the signing at a press conference in Melbourne this morning after weeks of rumours surrounding Honda’s move to the A-League, and the player himself chimed in on Twitter as well.
I signed！Look forward to seeing you in Australia!!
— KeisukeHonda(本田圭佑) (@kskgroup2017) August 6, 2018
Honda made 98 appearances for the Japanese national team, and scored 37 goals in that time, including one at the 2018 World Cup, before retiring from international football after the Samurai Blue were knocked out of Russia 2018 at the hands of eventual semi-finalists Belgium. However, at 32 years old, he is still close to the prime of his career.
“It goes without saying that Keisuke has consistently proven himself at the highest level and we can’t wait to see what he can do in Melbourne,” coach Kevin Muscat said.
“He brings world-class ability and offers great flexibility in the front third of the pitch.
“It’s obviously an added benefit to have him a part of our Asian Champions League campaign too.”
Honda boasts an impressive footballing resume; he’s scored in three World Cups, played Champions League football, and enjoyed stints at the likes of Italian giants AC Milan, Russian powerhouse CSKA Moscow, and has also had stints in the Netherlands and, most recently, for Pachuca in Mexico.
However, the offer to come to Australia was a surprise to Honda, who admitted he never thought he’d play in the A-League.
“I couldn’t believe that because I’m Japanese and I never thought I would play in Australia in my career,” he said to Fox Sports.
“I (wanted) a new challenge so I’m satisfied.
“I checked a couple of things. Melbourne Victory is the most successful club in the A-League.
“I think that’s amazing, they became champions many times.
“Also the manager Kevin (Muscat) is a really nice guy. When I talked with him, he has big, big passion.
“I love it.”
The attacking midfielder, who can also play out wide, as a second striker or even as a number 9, will provide a massive boost both on and off the field to a Victory side which has lost a number of high-profile players since winning the 2017-18 championship, including Besart Berisha, Leroy George and Rhys Williams.
Honda’s one-year deal is thought to be worth somewhere around the $2.9 million mark, with $1.6 million of that coming from the FFA’s $3 million marquee fund (provided by broadcaster Fox Sports) and Melbourne providing the remaining $1.3 million.
In terms of player profile, Honda’s arrival will be the biggest marquee signing for the A-League since the arrivals of Alessandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey before the 2012-13 season.
“Today’s announcement that Keisuke Honda will be joining Melbourne Victory is a significant boon for the upcoming A-League season,” said FFA CEO David Gallop.
“To have a player of his experience, calibre and marketability will also boost the Hyundai A-League’s image and reputation within the Asian region and around the world.”
Honda is expected to arrive in Melbourne next week.
The Victory were believed to be in the running to secure the services of fringe Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren as well, however the Darmstadt 98 attacker has instead moved on loan back to Scottish club Hibernian, where he enjoyed a successful second half of the season earlier this year.