A popular figure in Asian football, and one who takes his rightful place among the Japanese elite, we remember one of the more strange inclusions in the attacking midfielder’s resumé.
Enjoying a globe-trotting career for nearly two decades, Keisuke Honda’s move to Botafogo last year shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to those who truly understand the economics of the game. After all, he was a solid performer, coming toward the end of his career, signing a deal with a club befitting his status as a player.
At the age of 34, however, it’s fair to say that his prime years were inevitably behind him by the point he turned out Campeanato Brasileiro outfit. A little slower than he might have once been, with certainly a love of acceleration over the yards closest to him, he was at least able to benefit from the maturer developments of attacking midfielders which would have quickly endeared him to a landscape like Brazilian ‘futebol‘.
Especially if he was able to follow up on his promises to his latest employers …
It was a move which also seemed to make sense from the colder, commercial sides of things as well. From the club’s perspective, drafting in overseas players into Botafogo hasn’t proven to be the easiest exercise; partly for the limitations put in place to stop them from overusing foreign stars in place of domestic assets, but also for the relative lack of prestige the club earns objectively when compared to their competitors.
So, not only were they obtaining a proven player in Keisuke Honda, but it was an opportunity to expand their brand abroad, and in one of the most consumer-driven markets in the world with Japan. As Honda’s reputation back home hadn’t wavered by this point, nor has the stock in his name throughout his illustrious career.
In fact, I can think of only a handful of players who perhaps command even greater respect than he does!
Maybe Manchester United’s and Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa and Celtic hero Shunsuka Namakura – a player we’ve discussed here at great length before at Ultra UTD – but even then, both of them must still tip their hat off in respect to how good Keisuke Honda was, and the wonderful, globe-trotting career he was able to have.
Whether Honda himself appreciated this is too presumptive to tell, though his contract discussions with Botafogo may reveal that some delusions of grandeur – or genuine concern – were present during those talks …
When sitting down to go through the particulars of a two-year deal with Botafogo in 2020, it’s since been revealed that Keisuka Honda’s camp, though more than happy to represent the club, were more than a little concerned when it came to actually living in the nearby neighbourhood – rife with a collection of stats and figures synonymous with petty and more serious crimes that seemed more indiscriminate than appeared at first glance.
To mitigate this, it’s believed that Honda had asked for a bodyguard to chaperone his movements, as well as requesting for the club to pay for an armoured vehicle to protect his journey to and from the training ground.
As it happened, he did get a bodyguard (which was largely paid by his own team under the recommendation of his new side) but the car was put on ice. He’d spend less than a season in Botafogo colours, scoring three times on 27 occasions – including a decent finish on his debut. But it’s a transfer that didn’t work out like it was supposed to.
Always better to flatter your employer than insult their neighbourhood, no?