Sayonara Yoshinori Muto- Mainz Lose Striker to Newcastle United

It’s an all-too frequent occurrence, but the Bundesliga is losing another top talent to the Premier League with the announcement that Newcastle United have signed Japanese striker Yoshinori Muto from Mainz 05.

Rafa Benitez’ Magpies have paid a reported €10.7 million for the 26-year-old, which you have to say it quite the bargain for the North-east giants, with initial reports this summer indicating the Nullfünfer would be holding out for fee in the region of €20 million.

Manager Rouwen Schröder and Mainz have become fairly astute at selling on their talent for a profit with last season’s sale of Jhon Cordoba to Köln for €17 million a prime example. Muto joined the club in 2015 from FC Tokyo for €2.8 million and would have been out of contract at the end of the coming season.

It is not the first time the Japanese international has been linked with the Premier League- a place he has made secret it is his ambition to test himself in. Before making the move to the Bundesliga in 2015 he was the subject of interest from both Manchester United and Chelsea after an impressive J-League season, but despite a firm bid from the Blues the move to England didn’t pan out.

When his compatriot Shinji Okazaki was poached by Leicester City, Muto was duly signed by Mainz to fill the gap and over the past three seasons has become a key player for the club. He scored seven goals in his debut season including a hat-trick against FC Augsburg- making him only the second Japanese player to do so in the Bundesliga.

2016-17 brought just five league goals as Mainz struggled against relegation and the previous season (another slog against the drop) produced eight goals and four assists. Muto scored the second goal on MatchDay 33 as the Nullfünfer beat Borussia Dortmund  2-1to clinch their place in the Bundesliga for this coming season.

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The Next Step

So like Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki before him, Muto has made the switch to the Premier League, but what awaits him? His goalscoring record at a regularly struggling Mainz was not amazing, so it seems unlikely he will set the English league alight with goals and compete with the likes of Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah. Last season at Mainz he averaged a goal every 238.25 minutes and averaged 1.4 shots per game. With slightly better service Muto should be targeting 10 goals for the Magpies next season.

His pace will be a real asset in the English top division and it may be that he is called upon to make an impact from the bench. Rafa Benitez will appreciate his high work rate and tactical understanding, while opponents should be wary of his dribbling ability and positional acumen.

At 178cm (5ft 10) he is a little diminutive to play as a central striker in the Premier League and his injury record in the Bundesliga wasn’t great, indicating that the fast-paced, combative Premier League could be a struggle for him.

That said, Muto has  had an impact at the Opel-Arena in Mainz and will be missed by the club. They struggled to survive last season and have now sold their best defender (Abdou Diallo to Dortmund) and their main source of goals (Muto). If they are going to make it to safety again in the coming campaign, then Herr. Schröder is going to work his magic in the transfer window.

Muto-san with fans at Mainz training in Colorado 2016
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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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