Quick Reads

Kazuyoshi Miura: the man, the myth, the legend of Japanese football

Born in February 1967 – a full three years before PSG were formed – it’s fair to say that Kazuyoshi Miura has been about for quite some time. He boasts 35 seasons as a professional in a career that has lasted five decades, as well as Japanese football’s oldest ever goalscorer, and now its oldest ever player.

They may not be the most prestigious honours the world has ever seen, but for Miura, they epitomise just how much he loves the beautiful game. Incredibly, the living legend is still going strong, breaking his latest record when he started up front in Yokohama FC’s 3-2 loss to Kawasaki last month aged 53 years and 210 days.

His team-mate and Celtic legend Shunsuke Nakamura also started the game and even assisted his side’s first goal, but at 42, he can be considered an exciting up-and-coming talent compared to the man playing ahead of him.

There must be something in the water then, given the fact that the previous record stood at 45 years and 62 days. His latest feat comes three years after he broke another record in the country, when he became the first 50-year-old to score in the Japanese league back in 2017.

Last month’s record-breaking match was his first in the J. League since 2007, with that appearance also coming for current club Yokohama, where he has been playing since 2005. But Miura can certainly add the phrase journeyman to his astonishing achievements, with his long list of previous clubs including Genoa, Zagreb, Vissel Kobe and Sydney FC among many others.

But it was in Brazil where it all started, with the forward moving there as a teen due to a lack of footballing opportunities in his native Japan. Following in the footsteps of his idol Pele, the youngster joined Santos not long after, but soon returned home to fulfil his dream of playing professionally there.

The J-League was established in 1993, and Miura quickly showed what he was all about by firing his Verdy Kawasaki side to the first two league titles, with the Asian Footballer of the Year and the league’s most valuable player awards also going his way.

A loan spell at Genoa was perhaps his greatest reward, where he became the first Japanese international to play in the Serie A. But a clash with the head of the legendary Franco Baresi saw his fortunes turn, and he left the country after just one goal in one injury-hit season.

But his status was somehow now elevated even further back home, with his return to Verdy Kawasaki seeing him reach 100 goals from his 192 appearances. It was his longest stay at a club throughout his career, but even that record has now been surpassed thanks to his lengthy spell at Yokohama.

His remarkable exploits certainly haven’t been limited to club football. Despite Japan failing to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, the striker’s 13 goals in 13 matches ensured he was adored all across the nation. The striker followed that up with another astonishing qualifying campaign four years later, where his 14 goals drove the country to their first ever World Cup in France 1998.

Incredibly, their star man was left out of the squad for the tournament, forcing his retirement soon after. His tally of 55 goals in 89 appearances puts him higher than the likes of Thierry Henry, Andriy Shevchenko and Wayne Rooney in the all-time international top scoring charts.

King Kazu is even making headlines off the pitch, with his appearance in computer game FIFA set to continue after Yokohama’s recent promotion to the J.League. A whole 25 years on from his appearance in FIFA 96, the Japan legend will now be ready to rock in FIFA 21.

His 139 league goals put him seventh in the current standings, 14 off a spot in the top five. Like anything he does, it’s not impossible, but with his latest deal set to expire in January, who knows what’s next for this unstoppable force.

A return to Futsal is perhaps on the cards, having represented his nation at the 2012 World Cup at a mere 45 years old. But you’d have to be a pretty confident gambler to bet against this man hanging up his boots in the beautiful game any time soon.

Subscribe to Punditfeed on Google News for all the latest updates from the world of sports!