Shinji Ono – Good but not good enough

by Matt Rowan

With David Beckham’s final game for the LA Galaxy coming up this weekend and his plans to move to a different club set to come to fruition, hype of a possible move to Australia is consolidating into a real push to bring him down under. Melbourne Heart is the club leading the pack at the moment, while Perth Glory and the Central Coast Mariners are also putting together official offers.

However if anyone is going to attract Beckham to the A-League, which is looking increasingly unlikely after it was FFA boss David Gallop who first ignited talk of Beckham leaving the MLS, it will probably be the Heart. The Melbourne side, according to local paper Herald Sun, have tabled a A$1.7m bid to Beckham’s representatives to play out the rest of the 2012-13 season at AAMI Park. The Heart, formed as an expansion club whose debut season was only two years ago, have also offered an alternative one and a half year deal to Beckham worth $5.5m.

The A-League clubs chasing the former England international have probably been spurned on by Sydney FC’s successful capture of Alessandro Del Piero, Newcastle Jets signing of Emile Heskey and the Western Sydney Wanderers bringing in Shinji Ono at the beginning of the season.

Well, that’s the angle most of the Australian media and even Football Federation Australia have taken. That it is to those three ‘marquee’ players, usually mentioned together as a group of three, credit for the increased crowd numbers, international attention towards the A-League and all the good perks that arrived with them from Italy, England and Japan respectively.

Alessandro Del Piero was and still is an extremely talented player, one of Italy’s greatest ever and undeniably the best player to ever grace the A-League. Emile Heskey was a significant player in the world’s biggest domestic sporting competition for a decade, as well gaining a significant number of caps for England at the highest level.  Shinji Ono is a Japanese midfielder who made 29 appearances in the Bundesliga without scoring a goal.

Why is he constantly mentioned in the same group as Del Piero and Heskey?

Ono has been a success in Australia, he’s is a playmaker with a good touch and dead ball ability. But he’s not really the type of player the A-League should have as one of their iconic marquee players.

David Beckham is probably the third best option for any club in leagues such as the A-League of Major League Soccer as a marquee or designated player right now behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Obviously there are hundreds of better players, but none of them quite carry the same commercial attraction, ‘Brand Xavi’ doesn’t quite hit the same tune.

Beckham would be the biggest star to ever play in the A-League, although Del Piero could probably still pip him for ability. He would surely make up the group of three star players used to market the round ball game in Australia.

Ono is not on the same level though, not many people had actually heard of him before he came south, let alone being the biggest sporting name on the planet. Including him in the current group of three devalues the league when there is no reason to include him, having two would be just as effective.

The Japanese player is the type of player the A-League wants to bring in as a decent import, not one as one of the leagues absolute star players. Surely they want to raise the bar higher if they want to aspire to being an internationally respected competition.

The signing of David Beckham would help achieve these goals, but the ripple effect of his presence would need to be capatalised on. The FFA know that they cannot let the competition become a retirement village for star players whose careers are on life support looking for a final payday. And certainly not Shinji Ono.

Players like Paul Ifill, Thomas Broich and Marcos Flores aren’t lauded along with the likes of Del Piero and Heskey, but they are certainly as good as Ono and arrived with similar credentials. They are the type of players that should be consistently brought in to improve the league, but not under the ‘marquee’ tag. Just as good players reflecting an increasingly good league.

4 Responses

  1. Jacky says:

    Ono was an important player for Feyenoord before injuries interrupted his career. If he wasn’t so injury proned, he’d certainly be able to command a starting spot in a mid-table team in any of Europe’s top leagues for the majority of his career. Flores, Ifill and Broich are definitely not as good as Ono (provided they are compared to each other when they were in their prime).

  2. ed says:

    …actually, I have to disagree with your perspective on both Ono and Broich’s positions.

    Broich in particular, is well-known in Germany – had he stayed there instead of seeking adventures, he would be in the same pantheon as Miroslav Klose, Per Mertesacker, and others of that era of German Football. He is still spoken of there with reverance, and there are more than a few German A-League fans because of him.

    Same with Ono – the man is a Japanese LEGEND. As a bit of a Japanese football aficionado, I know that he is spoken of in the same breath as Shunsuke Nakamura, Kazuyoshi Miura, and Yasuhito Endo. The A-League is broadcast in Japan in much the same way that it is in Italy thanks to Ono’s presence.

    Just because the name is lesser known to us, doesn’t mean that it’s not a star name. I occasionally wonder if we were to attract someone like Juan Riquelme (I know, unlikely, but stick with me here on this theory), who never had much of a European career, yet undeniably a massive star, what level of impact that would have on our game’s perception overseas.

    A massive South American name such as his would potentially lead to further overseas coverage of our game, increased interest from players of that region (we have seen rumours and statements from Italian players on coming to the A-League after half a season), and a further upping in value of the respect for our league.

    If we can MAINTAIN – note I say maintain, not even grow, as some “big” leagues such as Serie A have notoriously low attendances at many clubs – our attendances and continue attracting players of this calibre, no matter what nation they are from as long as it opens a market – then our league can be very survivable, very viable, and very vibrant.

    I just feel your article is a little blinkered, and ignores the wider issues here, simply because Ono is not perceived in the same star pantheon as ADP.

  3. Tom says:

    Ono becomes the most underrated player due to his injuries, but he is still admired by great internationals including RVP (Manchester United), and Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan). Sneijder named Ono as “the toughest opponent” in a 2010 interview:
    “He was strong and fit but he was also a tremendous player. Whenever he would get away from me I had to work hard to mark him. He’d go all the way to the striker and you simply couldn’t let him walk away from you. Very skilled player.” http://netherlands.worldcupblog.org/world-cup-2010/wes-sneijder-analysis-of-world-class-player.html

  4. GoonerDoz says:

    Matt Rowan, what were you saying? Have you changed your mind yet?

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