In September many Bundesliga managers raised their concerns about the recent Premier League television deal, and the impact that the new financial power of English teams will have on German football. Yet 1. FSV Mainz’s manager Christian Heidel was adamant that the Bundesliga could benefit from English money.
When speaking to an academic forum, Heidel pointed out that “it is now up to us to bring English money to the Bundesliga. The solution is simple, when an English club wants a player from us, we right away set our demands way above the actual market value. We should simply say thank you, take the money, and reinvest it into our scouting network, and youth development infrastructure. It will pay off.”
Heidel was true to his word when he sold the 30 year old Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki for €10 million, in what most observers deemed to be a fantastic deal for the club from the capital of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Subsequently, Heidel has wisely reinvested some of that money in another Japanese striker, the 23-year-old Yoshinori Muto. According to Transfermarkt.de Mainz purchased Muto, who also had an offer from FC Arsenal, for €2.8 million from FC Tokyo. The outbound Okazaki played a major role in Muto’s decision to join Mainz rather than Arsenal, where he surely would have had a hard time breaking into the first squad.
At Mainz, Muto promptly managed to break into the first team, and has already scored seven goals in just 14 appearances—Okazaki, in comparison, only managed two goals in 12 matches in his first Bundesliga season at VfB Stuttgart. Furthermore, Muto has built an effective strike tandem with Mainz’s playmaker Yunus Malli; the two have been responsible for 15 out of Maniz’s 20 league goals. Muto has scored seven of the 15 goals, has also added four assists, and ranks in the top ten in the Bundesliga scorer list.
Both players were also instrumental in Mainz’s derby victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday with Muto scoring the early lead against Frankfurt in the fifth minute and with Malli making it 2-0 just before halftime. Frankfurt’s Haris Seferović would later make it 2-1, but Mainz was able to secure the all important derby victory.
This was Muto’s first derby, but his performance suggests that the Japanese striker not only understands the importance of such games for Mainz’s fan base, but also is able to perform in high pressure matches.
Muto has also integrated well into German society in general, When speaking to Fox Sport’s Bundesliga show, Muto explained that the Bundesliga was always the most logical first destination for him in European football, “Mainz is not Tokyo, but in general the German mentality is very similar to our mentality in Japan, and I have found it easy to fit in.”
Muto’s rapid integration on and off the pitch has meant that Mainz once again is able to punch above its weight in the Bundesliga (the club is currently ninth). Muto—who was brought in for a fraction of Okazaki’s transfer fee to Leicester—has proven that he is a fantastic addition to the squad. Of course, Mainz fans are aware of the business mechanisms in football and view the young striker as a financial investment. But for now, Muto is primarily seen as Mainz’s formidable attacking tsunami.
About the author – Manuel Veth