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Bajalica has high hopes for Maya

12 Jan 2010(Tue)

January 11, 2010: As Keisuke Honda leaves VVV-Venlo for CSKA Moscow, another former Grampus man, Maya Yoshida, arrives in Holland to maintain Venlo’s Japanese connection.

So how will the young central defender fare in the Dutch league? After all, not many Japanese defenders have moved overseas, as foreign clubs are usually attracted by the creativity and technical skills of Japan’s top players rather than by their defending.

No one is in a better position to judge Yoshida than his former central defensive partner at Nagoya, Milos Bajalica. Both players played their final game for Nagoya on New Year’s Day – the Emperor’s Cup final – as Bajalica was not retained and was heading home to Serbia.

Basically, Bajalica thinks Yoshida has everything it takes to succeed in Europe – but feels he must toughen up and must cut down on his individual mistakes.

“I think he will do well because the league over there is not too difficult, similar to Japan,” the Serb said.

“He is very calm for such a young player, only 21, and he has gained confidence. He jumps well and he has started reading the game well.”

Bajalica, however, is not the first to point out that the polite Japanese way – for example apologising to opponents after a foul, and helping them off the floor – may stand against them in Europe, where the environment is much more competitive, even in training as players fight to get into the starting line-up.

“He should forget about the goodness and the gentleness of Japan and be careful not to make any big mistakes because in Europe as soon as you make a big mistake generally you are out of the team. It is something to be careful about.”

This is something I have certainly noticed in Yoshida’s game, especially his annoying habit of using his chest to divert a high ball to a teammate, rather than simply bringing it under control. This is very casual and risky play, the kind of thing that will be discouraged quickly in Holland.

I asked Bajalica if he felt the same, and he replied: “He is young – it is the Japanese style!”

Just as Honda has moved on to bigger things in Russia, so, too, could Yoshida if he settles in at Venlo, starting at home to Feyenoord on January 24.

“It may become a stepping stone because he is so young and has improved a lot since I came here and raised his game level -- especially if there is another player in the team who can guide him, lead him and maybe calm him down from time to time,” concluded Bajalica.


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