Ossie Ardiles knows a good midfield player when he sees one.
And he thinks he has seen a very good one at Tokyo Verdy 1969 in Yoshiyuki Kobayashi.
"I was very surprised how good he is," said Ardiles, a World Cup-winning midfielder with Argentina in 1978.
"He is very close to being in the national team. We have some others, too, but I think Yoshi will probably be the first."
Ardiles has turned around the fortunes of the once glamorous and mighty Verdy since his appointment as manager in June.
The Greens, who won the first two J.League championships in 1993 and 1994, have moved out of the relegation zone and are regarded more as second-stage title contenders than J2 candidates.
Kobayashi encapsulates that dramatic improvement.
"When I arrived here he wasn't playing. He wasn't even on the bench, and I think he'd have gone anywhere," said Ardiles.
"The previous manager criticized him and didn't want to play him, so Yoshi thought 'I'm out of here.'
"From what I have seen so far, I think he'll be fighting for a national team place very soon."
When asked to outline Kobayashi's qualites, Ardiles said: "He's a good passer of the ball...intelligent...he's always in a good position...good in the air...has a good shot. Overall he's a very good player."
Kobayashi, 25, joined Verdy from Komazawa University in 1999, and his appearance Sunday against Kashima Antlers was his 92nd in the first division.
His goal tally of only three is clearly an area in which he can improve, and he may have to rapidly if Cameroon World Cup striker Patrick Mboma is ruled out for a significant amount of time after straining his right abductor muscle Sunday.
As Ardiles points out, Kobayashi is an elegant, ball-playing midfielder with natural gifts.
He had a spell in Spain earlier in his career, and has also been unlucky with injury.
But if Zico decides to leave the likes of Hidetoshi Nakata, Shunsuke Nakamura, Shinji Ono and Junichi Inamoto in Europe for certain international matches this year, there may be time for the national coach to take a look at Kobayashi.