Minamino 2.0? Why Yuito Suzuki could be the next Japanese star to shine in Europe

Yuito Suzuki Shimizu S-Pulse 2021
The 20-year-old attacking midfielder is impressing at Shimizu S-Pulse and has been attracting interest from clubs in Belgium and Scotland

It’s fair to say that Japanese footballers have been making a big impression in Europe of late.

From Takumi Minamino to Takehiro Tomiyasu, the veteran Maya Yoshida at Sampdoria and the impressive Takefuso Kubo at Mallorca, to the exciting quartet of new arrivals at Celtic, the J-League is increasingly well-represented among the continent’s top leagues.

How long, one wonders, before the name Yuito Suzuki is added to the list?

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The 20-year-old, who plays for Shimizu S-Pulse, has already been attracting interest from clubs in both Belgium and Scotland, and is likely to make the move to Europe at some point this year.

He has already earned his first call-up for the national team, training alongside the likes of Minamino and Kubo ahead of last month’s World Cup qualifiers against China and Saudi Arabia.

“An honour,” he called it, although he did not feature in the games as it turned out.

A skilful, versatile attacker, Suzuki idolises Kevin De Bruyne, the Manchester City star, and has been compared to Minamino on account of his dynamism, quick feet and eye for a pass.

Like the Liverpool man, he is capable of playing anywhere across the forward line, or as the third midfielder in a 4-3-3, though he views the ‘second striker’ position as his most comfortable.

"My strength is that I can play in any [attacking] position,” he says. “What is required of me is to receive the ball in the gaps of the opponents and link it to the attack."

That much was evident during the opening game of the J-League season, Suzuki scoring a superb goal and winning the player of the match award as Shimizu drew with Consadole Sapporo.

“I've missed a lot of shots, so I still need to score more goals for the supporters to recognise me,” he said after the game. 

“It's only the first game and I want to keep working hard. I want people to see that my finishing in front of goal has improved this season.”

Born in the town of Hayama, in the Kanagawa region of Japan, Suzuki was initially on the books of Yokohama F Marinos as a youngster, but chose Shimizu, he says, because of “the atmosphere within the club” and because it has a reputation for producing good footballers.

Shinji Okazaki, a Premier League winner with Leicester, is among those to have emerged with S-Pa, who have also housed the likes of Freddie Ljungberg, Daniele Massaro and the great Brazilian showman Djalminha down the years.

Yuito Suzuki Shimizu S-Pulse J1 League 2022

Suzuki shares an agent with Minamino, who made the move to the Premier League with Liverpool a little over two years ago, and is keen to follow the example set by him and Tomiyasu, who joined Arsenal from Bologna last summer.

The importance of role models, he says, is huge.

He hopes to be involved when Japan take on Australia in a huge World Cup qualifier in Sydney next month.

Victory there would secure the Samurai Blue’s place in Qatar, while defeat would leave them needing to beat Vietnam in their final match, while hoping the Socceroos fail to defeat Saudi Arabia in theirs.

In the meantime, the focus will be on performing consistently for Shimizu S-Pulse, who finished 14th in the J-League last season but have greater ambitions this time around under Hiroaki Hiraoki, who replaced Miguel Angel Lotina, the former Villarreal, Espanyol and Real Sociedad boss, in November.

Deliver there, and Europe surely beckons for Suzuki.