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FC Bayern's Newest Import (with video)

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Several news outlets have all-but-confirmed Bayern’s pick-up of Japanese star Takashi Usami. Inside Futbol will say only that the club is "closing in" on Usami, while the Japan Times describes the player as "set for" a switch to Bayern. Even if a deal hasn’t been signed yet, the staff of his current team, Gamba Osaka, have admitted that he has a buyout clause, so it’s just a matter of time.

The 19-year-old Usami has already established himself as an explosive offensive option for both club and country, scoring 14 total goals in 54 games for Gamba Osaka and starring for the Japanese U-17, U-19, and U-22 teams. Some of the best footage of Usami can be seen here, playing for Japan in the U-17 World Cup in 2009:

Watching the video, a few things leap to mind immediately:

- He has great touch. He never seems to have trouble keeping close control of the ball, which is rare in such a young guy. If you watch him dribble, you never see him tip the ball a little too hard and then have to lean forward to control it - he’s always moving right through with the other foot.

- He can use both feet very well - not just on shooting (which most professionals should be able to do competently), but he can also put a pass right on the spot with left foot and right.

- He’s a little slight. That’s not a huge surprise, given his age, but he’s going to have to put on a few pounds if he hopes to compete in a league like the Bundesliga.

- He creates a TON of near-misses. I don’t know exactly what to make of that, but since he already has a great scoring rate, maybe he can work on his finishing and become absolutely deadly. But I think his high number of "almost" goals in that video is probably a function of playing with guys from other clubs.

Usami will almost certainly start the year with Bayern II. It will probably be July before he starts training with us, and it would be too big a jump to get him onto the senior club before then. But I wouldn’t be shocked to see him with Big Bayern before the end of the 2011-2012 season, especially if injuries and suspensions take their toll like they did this past year.

For Usami, it’s going to be very steep learning curve. Not only is he going to be looking to (eventually) crack into a team full of stars in a very tough, very competitive league, but he also is going to have huge language and culture barriers. Keep in mind he just turned 19 a month ago. He seems to have the skills to succeed; if he has the maturity and discipline, I think he can be a Bundesliga star.

One last note - I hope they don’t go this route, but I also wouldn’t be stunned if Bayern lent him out to another top-flight club, at least for half a season. If he’s as good as his numbers in the J-League make him seem, he might not be learning anything new at Bayern II. Remember that Toni Kroos came up through Bayern II, but couldn’t get onto the field due to our roster full of established stars at the forward positions. If we pick up another good wing and have a fully-stacked roster, but Usami is crushing the competition with Bayern II, maybe we’ll see if another club can promise him some starts.

But that’s not likely; he will probably play a half a season or a full season with our junior club and then hopefully make the jump to FC Bayern. I’d really like to see him at some point this season. If things work out, he might be coming into his own at exactly the time we need a replacement for Robben or Ribery.

We’ll be back tomorrow or Monday with (more) transfer-market talk. Eden Hazard is in the picture once again, and a few other things are happening in the market, so stay tuned. Thanks for reading.