Nothing comes close to the respect that Leicester City
When the season was on the brink of kicking off, Leicester
This season, it’s all been a case of proving those people wrong, who consider money in the vault to be everything in football. The Foxes have resoundingly shown to the non-believers that determination and commitment towards a cause are far more important than any other
Players from backgrounds such as the fourth division of France and from the eighth tier of English football point out to how hard they’ve worked in order to come this far. And although, their contributions to Leicester’s cause have been substantial and they’ve played their hearts out for it, there is a pocket-sized Japanese in there whose hard work for Ranieri’s team has gone largely unnoticed.
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Shinji Okazaki, the man who plied his trade under Kasper Hjulmand at Mainz last season, has been someone without whom Leicester wouldn’t have yielded as much success as they have. Despite being the highest scoring Japanese in the Bundesliga history, few knew about Okazaki’s presence in this world.
The likes of Shinji Kagawa, Atsuto Uchida, Gōtoku Sakai, Hiroki Sakai and Hannover’s Hiroshi Kiyotake are
Watching Leicester’s recent 2-2 draw against West Ham may well have sent some Leicester heads crashing. Spurs fans and their side used it as a catapult to close the gap on the Foxes. During the game at King Power on Sunday, few noticed Okazaki’s contributions to the game. Or that’s how underrated the 30-year-old is.
When Leicester broke through Riyad Mahrez from the right flank, the dynamic Algerian seemed harried by West Ham defenders and it gave the impression that he doesn’t have enough options to pass to. Mahrez turned, only to be falling short of space to pass. In came Okazaki, his run took Mark Noble out of the picture, creating a huge amount of space for N’Golo Kante to run into and seek the pass from Mahrez. The Frenchman received the ball and ran into the space that Okazaki had created, played the ball through to Jamie Vardy, who was
Okazaki, who scored as many as 14 times for Mainz last season before moving to King Power for £7m, has never been the one to be in the spotlight, top scorer or not. He’s one of those selfless characters who would go about their job without making much of a fuss about it, neither would he care about how someone rates him. All he knows is that he has a job on his hand that he has to perform it with a certain amount of dedication. He always has that desire to do what is best for the team, no matter what the circumstances are.
In a world where good looks of a player make him a star and a heart-throb, Okazaki has zero regards for such vanity. You’d never see his hair tied up or combed in a certain way that would brand him as a style icon or flamboyant. He shows off his uncanny style on the pitch—runs all day long,
Unlike Jamie Vardy, who has been deservedly glorified as someone who represents players that hail from humble backgrounds, Okazaki still hasn’t got the plaudits he deserves. He doesn’t have a special attribute appended to him, but rather happens to be a 'jack of all trades' kind of a player. He does a titbit of everything that his team requires of him.
He has come up with crucial goals for Leicester when Jamie Vardy wasn’t on
He bites the dirt continually for the team, gets up and starts running again. A symbol of the age-old, traditional Japanese hard-working attitude, Okazaki wins fouls for the team and yet, hardly commits a foul of his own. No matter how many times he is brought down by an opponent, Okazaki hardly retaliates. And he has done this all season long.
His space creation abilities are something Leicester thrive on. He makes amazing runs that take defenders out of the equation, making sure a teammate has the space required to score. The former Stuttgart always seems to have a nonchalant grin, yet a focused look on his face, which turns into a laugh once Leicester win or score. Okazaki scored from a spectacular overhead kick against Newcastle and yet, it did not make it to the headlines? Had Wayne Rooney or Harry Kane scored a stunner like that, it would have broken the internet.
Okazaki truly belongs to that rare host of players who are willing to do everything for their side, that too without needing any bit of glorification or attention, Sevilla’s Grzegorz Krychowiak or Mainz’s former star Johannes Geis are few of the others. And it’s refreshing to see