Shinji who? was what I heard a lot in the office last week following the arrival of the Western Sydney Wanderers new marquee signing.
Other than the most ardent football fan, many didn’t a have clue about the Japanese import who’s played at three World Cups and has 56 caps for his country.
Well let me introduce him.
Shinji Ono is considered one of Japan’s biggest footballing stars, and the 33-year-old is known in his homeland as ‘‘Tensai’’ or genius, for his creative midfield skills.
Despite having an impressive playing career, the western Sydney public have been luke warm to his arrival citing the club’s missed opportunity to sign German superstar Michael Ballack.
Although Ballack’s arrival would have been a massive public relations coup for the code, it’s Ono’s signing which will offer more talent on the playing field.
On paper Ballack comes up trumps no question. But on current form and physical condition Ono’s the better buy.
What fans don’t know is that Ballack has only played 35 times for his German club in the past three years and has been plagued by knee injuries since his move away from Chelsea in 2010.
His last game for Bayer Leverkusen was in May and he has reportedly not been training ever since.
During the European summer Ballack, 36, turned his attention to football commentating.
Now compare this with Ono, 33, who has made 64 appearances for his club in the last two years and comes to the Wanderers relatively injury free.
It’s little wonder Ballack announced his retirement today after missing out on a lucrative financial deal with the Wanderers.
He knows in his heart he’s no longer good enough for the German Bundesliga, and the A-League it appears, with no other Australian club offering him a deal.
At his current reported asking price of $2.2 million a season it’s simply a risk the Wanderers couldn’t afford.