Here comes the inevitable first of what are sure to be a whole host of Japanese players linked with Chelsea. We've got a Japanese sponsor; we're possibly going on a post-season tour in Japan; we're now signing some Japanese talents. Though I can't hate on anybody named Yoshi, whether that be a cartoon dinosaur or a 22-year-old Japanese international who can do this:
Yes indeed. Another faster than fast wing-forward to try out on the right wing. His style may be familiar to us, but apparently it's a new thing for Japan and the Japanese national team. Plus, he's supposed to be the Japanese Messi, which is good because the Egyptian one and the German one are as good as gone already.
"He has good speed, he looks fresh and [brings] a new style. We didn't have his kind [of striker] ever in the Japanese national team. I agree [that he's not a typical Japanese striker], so I like him."
-Keisuke Honda; source: Japan News via Sakka Nihon
Here's Muto's goal from the friendly against Venezuela (who apparently do not believe in playing defense) that got Honda's tongue wagging.
It's not quite clear when the rumors linking Muto with Chelsea started, but they may have been making front page news in Japan a week or so ago already.
Morning papers trying to sell a few extra with colour pic of Muto (no change there) and "to Chelsea" story ... Total BS, of course!— JSoccer Magazine (@JSoccerMagazine) March 31, 2015
Not exactly a fast-moving rumor then. Twitter picked it up on Monday morning. Duncan Castles chimed in not too long ago as well.
English Premier League leaders Chelsea are in the process of recruiting a Japan international. [...] The club has been scouting Japan national team players, including FC Tokyo's 22-year-old forward Yoshinori Muto, but is yet to conclude any deal.
-source: ONE World Sports
Sean Carroll, an English journalist based in Japan is already putting this down as a done deal.
FC Tokyo star Yoshinori Muto set for Chelsea. Record fee for an Asian player believed to have been agreed between the clubs for summer move.— Sean Carroll (@seankyaroru) April 6, 2015
As usual, we have work permit issues to consider. Muto does have 11 caps for Japan, but Japan aren't exactly high on FIFA's rankings. Under Greg Dyke's proposed work permit regulations however, should Chelsea pay £10m+, Muto would be granted a permit automatically. Obviously this defeats the entire purpose of the new regulations, but we already knew that these were silly rules in the first place.
Muto had been linked with a move to the Bundesliga in January and he does average about a goal every other game in the J.League. Still, for now at least, this all seems rather far-fetched. Chelsea signing a Japanese player wouldn't be the craziest thing, I suppose, even if purely for marketing reasons. Though I hope we're not that shallow.