Leeds United Confirm the Signing of Ideguchi

Leeds have confirmed that they have signed 21-year-old Japanese midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi from Gamba Osaka and he becomes the first ever Japanese national to play for Leeds. However, he has been immediately loaned to Spanish second division side Cultural Leonese for the rest of the season before having the chance to pull on the Yorkshire sides’ famous white shirt due to work permit complications.

The work permit issues are down to Ideguchi not representing Japan in enough games and because Japan is currently ranked 57th in the Fifa world rankings. Previously this would have caused no issue for Leeds and Ideguchi as non-EAA (European Economic Area) players had to play for a team ranked in the top 75 of FIFA’s rankings and play in 75% of their national team games for the previous two years prior to moving to England. That all changed recently with the FA having concerns that substandard international players are blocking the pathways of young English players, so they decided that non-EEA players had to represent a team from the current top 50 in the world and also play in 75% of their games over the previous two years.  

Due to the aforementioned change in the work permit rules, Leeds have decided to go down the loan route until Ideguchi is eligible for a work permit by sending him to Cultural Leonese. As Ideguchi has only recently broken into Japan’s senior team it would have been unlikely he would have been granted a work permit based on the old rules or the new ones because of not representing Japan in 75% of their matches over a two year period prior to the transfer.

He has 11 caps so far for Japan since his debut against Saudi Arabia. By far his biggest moment for the national team since his breakthrough was scoring a goal against Australia in the final rounds of qualifying to send Japan direct to Russia and confine Australia to the playoffs. Since his breakthrough he has performed well for Japan, with everything pointing to him becoming a mainstay of the national side for the foreseeable future.

It has to be said that Ideguchi is taking a big risk in moving to Europe in a World Cup year and just as he is starting to solidify his place in the Japanese national team set up. If he had of moved directly to Leeds to play in the Championship people might have thought differently but he has effectively moved from the spotlight in Japan to a relatively unknown Spanish second division side.

Ideguchi must have thought, ‘what if I never get another opportunity to move to Europe, and I should grab the bull by the horns now in case the chance goes begging.’ Even though Leeds have been slumming it in the lower reaches of the English pyramid for some time now, they are still classed as one of England’s traditional big clubs. Do well in the Championship with Leeds by getting promoted to the Premier League then he will be playing in the league with the biggest exposure throughout the world. Even if he never gets to the Premier League with Leeds, there is still enough exposure throughout Europe for most clubs in the Championship especially ones the size of Leeds.

Time will tell if Ideguchi’s risky move pays off. It could go one way or the other, either he will be a success and go to the World Cup while establishing the start of a European career or he will become a forgotten man, miss the World Cup and not be a success at Elland Road. Leeds and Japanese fans will be hoping that it goes down the road signposted successfully.

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