In 2018, Japanese striker Yoshinori Muto signed a four year contract for Newcastle United. According to Chronicle, his deal pays him £54,000 per week and he cost £9.5 million. Since then, he has gone on to play 25 league games for the Magpies, with a return of just one league goal. So, was this the result of more bad scouting a poor recruitment network, or was it just sheer bad luck?
Firstly, it should be noted that upon his arrival, Muto cost Newcastle £9.5 million. This was not a cheap signing by any means and there was even a tricky work permit to sort out. With this said, Newcastle’s pursuit was very serious. At the time Rafa Benitez was in charge, but there’s every chance that Muto was not his signing. Fast forward to the 2020 season, and Muto played for Eibar in La Liga. Here, he made 26 appearances with one goal in return. Sound familiar?
In fairness, Muto was hot property at the time. Aged 24, he had just scored 8 goals in 27 appearances for Mainz in the Bundesliga. As there has been various hit signings from the German league in recent years, it seemed that Muto could be one of them. The likes of Roberto Firminho was purchased from the Bundesliga and has lit up the Premier League at Liverpool. Closer to home, Fabian Schar had also spent a year in Germany before eventually making it to Newcastle.
Of course, it’s not always that simple. For every success story from the Bundesliga, there are also many failures. Oddly, there are quite a few poor signings of Japanese players who have moved from the Bundesliga to the Premier League. The likes of Shinji Kagawa didn’t quite do it at Manchester United, whilst Takumi Minamino also failed to hit the mark at Liverpool. Whilst this doesn’t mean that all Japanese Premier League signings from Germany flop, it doesn’t make for great reading.
Researching further, the news for Japanese signings in England usually do not bode well. Historically, there are quite a few. From the likes of Junichi Inamoto to Kazuyuki Toda, the vast majority have not performed for various reasons. Whilst there are outliers such as Maya Yoshida and Shinji Okazaki, the numbers don’t read well. Sadly, it looks like Yoshinori Muto may fit into the former list of Japanese players who didn’t make it in England.
There are several reasons why this could be. Perhaps it’s the physically tough nature of English football, perhaps it’s a massive culture shift…or it could be 1000 other reasons. The point is that numerically speaking, Japanese players don’t always land well in England.
Does this mean that the signing of Muto was poorly planned? Not quite, but it’s definitely something to consider. For every St-Maximin, there have also been a Joelinton too which balances out the transfer success rate at St James Park. As mentioned in a previous article, there’s a lot to be gained from shopping abroad, but spending big money abroad doesn’t always bode well. In other words, part of the charm of buying foreign players is that they can be risky, but they can also come at an incredibly cheap price.
Perhaps it’s too harsh on the story of Muto to be pointing out his shortcomings, and perhaps the bigger money buys on the likes of Joelinton and Almiron are arguably even worse in terms of finances. However, with another year on his contract and few suitors, it looks like Muto will sadly go down as another flop signing which follows a trend of modern football at Newcastle.