Many players have moved out of Europe to play their football. The Japanese Football League is one of the many football leagues across the globe that attracts multiple star players.

Here we shall delve into 4 players that are heading towards the end of their careers and have chosen to move to the Japanese Football League in order to keep playing the game they love.

Andres Iniesta

Andres Iniesta’s signing from Barcelona was one of the biggest the J-League has seen in years. He agreed a deal worth a reported $30m a year, a J-League record. Iniesta stated that he wanted to “conquer Asia” with Vissel Kobe upon arrival.

Iniesta has scored twice in nine appearances since he made his move to the club. Both goals were a thing of beauty. There have also been regular reminders of his brilliance and composure on the ball ever since joining Vissel Kobe.

With five games of the season left, Kobe have slipped down to 11th. They are nine points behind Kashima Antlers, who occupy the final AFC Champions League qualifying place.

Fernando Torres

“I wanted a new challenge in a completely different place.” These were Fernando Torres’ words when he decided to move to the J-League from Atletico Madrid in the summer. However, battling against relegation might not have been the challenge he had in mind.

With five games of the season remaining, Torres’ Sagan Tosu are fighting to stay in the J-League. They have won just four games since Torres made his debut on July 22. The Spanish striker has only scored once in 11 league starts.

Sagan are currently second from bottom having lost both of their previous matches. To avoid relegation Torres’ side must finish 16th and then win a relegation play-off match in order to stay in the J-League. Unless Sagan can make a great escape during the final five games, this may be their best option.

Lukas Podolski

Former Arsenal and Germany forward Lukas Poldolski has been with Kobe since 2017, but has not made a telling impact in the J-League. This has been partly due to injuries and also inconsistent form.

The German has scored five goals in 15 league starts in his first season and has netted three times in 19 starts this season.

Evidently Podolski isn’t quite living up to his reputation in Japan. He is, however, having quite the impact on the Japanese players who play in the league. Urawa Reds’ Tomoaki Makino played alongside Podolski at Cologne in 2011 and said after a recent meeting: “I never thought that he’d be playing in the J-League all these years later. He’s such a special player.”

Jay Bothroyd

Jay Bothroyd is an ex England, Coventry and Cardiff striker who has been playing in Japan since February 2015.

The Englishmen may not have the reputation of the other players mentioned but he’s certainly made an impact on Japanese Football.

He was top scorer in his first season with J2 League side Jubilo Iwata. He netted 20 goals to help his side clinch promotion to the J-League. Bothroyd scored 14 goals the following season with Iwata before leaving to join Consadole Sapporo.

Since moving to Sapporo he has only netted five goals this season. However, his team are challenging for a spot in next season’s AFC Champions League. They are currently fifth in the table, just two points behind third-placed Kashima Antlers.

Now 36, Bothroyd has told multiple media outlets that he wants to be “the first English player to win some silverware in Japan.”

In conclusion it’s safe to say it’s brilliant to see these players continuing their careers in another continent and also succeeding. The Japanese Football League is a perfect example of a league where players can prolong their careers even further and gain multiple new experiences too.

Hi I’m Jack, I am a writer for Sportsgrape, the number one student sports platform in the UK, and I’m currently on my gap year before heading off to uni to study journalism for 3 years. I am 18 years old and have supported Arsenal for my entire life...don’t ask how! My aim is to post as often as possible so keep an eye out for any of my articles!


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