Chelsea are seemingly set to seal a deal to bring Japanese forward Yoshinori Muto to Stamford Bridge, with reputable sources such as The BBC jumping on the bandwagon over a potential £4 million summer move.
The rumblings will come as a surprise to most, who will know little about the 22-year-old forward, but any interest in Muto will surely stem from commercial interests rather than furthering the team on the pitch.
After signing a new shirt deal with Japanese tyre company Yokohama Rubber earlier this year reportedly worth £40m per year, it is clear to see that the Blues are trying to make inroads into a market that Manchester United have traditionally dominated.
Football in Asia is big business, with the majority of fans from that part of the world traditionally following the Old Trafford club.
With the likes of Park Ji-sung and Shinji Kagawa stepping out for the Red Devils, there has been a clear plan of action by the Manchester club to further its commercial interests in Asia over recent times.
While both Park and Kagawa were signed as first-team players and given a chance to prove as much, Muto’s link to Chelsea is somewhat farcical.
With arguably the most complete centre forward in the division in their attacking ranks in the form of Diego Costa and the in-form Loic Remy as his deputy, the chance for Muto to feature in the Blues’ first team will be non-existent.
In all likelihood, the Asian star will join the travelling cohort of Chelsea’s loan army, which currently sits at a staggering 26 players to be farmed out by the West London club this season.
As has been seen by the example of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, amongst others, this is also a financial ploy by Jose Mourinho’s men to make money through the development and subsequent sale of players.
Along with the bumper sponsorship deal with the Japanese company, the current Premier League leaders are rumoured to be ready for a pre-season tour to the Far East ahead of 2015-16, with the acquisition of Muto sure to be arranged ahead of this.
The sight of a homegrown star playing alongside Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and John Terry in Japan would be a powerful message in the Asian nation and surely help to increase the Blues’ following – and as such revenue.
Where Muto differs to someone like Lukaku or De Bruyne, is that the Japanese striker does not look like a player capable of ever breaking into the English side’s first team.
Although one of the brightest prospects in his homeland, underwhelming performances for Japan at the Asian Cup earlier this year do not give an insight into why a Premier League club would want to sign the 22-year-old.
Mourinho was asked in yesterday’s press conference about the likelihood of Muto’s arrival and could not deny the fact that “commercial interests” had their part to play in the attacker’s potential signing.
Depending on how you look at it, Chelsea’s tactic is either ingenious or unethical, with the financial fair play rulings more important than on-pitch matters in a move for the Japanese posterboy.
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