More Stars To Follow in Torres’ Footsteps to Japan, Despite Difficult Season for the Spaniard
Source: Fernando 9 Torres via Facebook.Fernando Torres raised a few eyebrows when he opted to trade Atletico Madrid for Sagan Tosu of the Japanese top division, the J-League. The eyebrows have continued to rise this season as Torres has been unable to propel his club away from a relegation battle. A marquee signing can only take a side so far, but more stars are likely to follow in Torres’ footsteps as the global reputation of the J-League grows.The presence of Andres Iniesta at mid-table Vissel Kobe is also likely to encourage more Europe-based stars to consider their options in Asia. Iniesta has brought his customary flair and poise to Vissel Kobe, but his compatriot Torres has struggled at Sagan Tosu. Perhaps it is the burden of expectation that weighs heavy on his shoulders, with Torres only notching two goals in his first 15 J-League appearances.
World Cup winners Torres and Iniesta have grown accustomed to success in their career, but they have switched winning most weeks to playing for sides that you would be wary of adding to an accumulator. This is a credit to the J-League; players aren’t coming for a payday and a cakewalk, but are instead competing fiercely and sharing their experience with young Japanese players.
While Torres and Iniesta may not be able to have a huge footballing influence today, their legacy for the league is to attract a greater global audience. More British fans are clamouring for the introduction of J-League football to UK television, while players of Football Manager remain hopeful that the J-League can one day be added.
The growing selection of global betting markets for the J-League is further indication of its improving status in world football. Domestic betting options were developed in 1998 with the intention of increasing Japan’s competitiveness in the sport on a global level. Since then, Japan have qualified for six consecutive World Cups and have progressed from the group stage on three occasions. That success has firmly established Japan as a major global player in football, reflected in the widening range of betting options and in the ability to attract players of the calibre of Torres and Iniesta.
As its worldwide audience increases, it is expected that the J-League will begin to attract more European-based talent to fill some of the five foreign player slots that each club is permitted. Beyond Iniesta and Torres, there are other names currently in Japan that will be familiar to fans of the Premier League.
Lukas Podolski is linking up with Iniesta at Vissel Kobe, while former Manchester City and Everton striker Jo now calls Nagoya Grampus home. Jo’s side is most famous to a global audience for Arsene Wenger managing Gary Lineker at the club in 1995. That sort of collaboration may become increasingly common in the J-League as more stars consider it a viable career move.