News are that Shinji Okazaki could be close to a move away from Leicester City and the player that for many will be, together with Mahrez, Vardy and Kantè, the one who really became the trademark of Leicester City’s 5000/1 season.
Galatasaray is mentioned as a possible destination for the 32 year old Japanese, looking to be a target for the Turkish giant. Leicester City made a shrewd move when they signed Okazaki, being said he was a final piece in the jigsaw of a team that would go places few would believe was possible.
A unique partnership with Jamie Vardy was as unlikely as seeing Shinji being best friends with the former Norwegian international Frode Johnsen. Johnsen spent four years of his career with Japanese clubs Nagoya Grampus Eight and Shimizu S-Pulse. Johnsen was the star bucketing goals, scoring 52 in 137 games in the J-league. One unique and special record of Johnsen is that he is the oldest player to ever have appeared for the Norwegian national team, at the age of 39 years and 212 days.
A young Shinji Okazaki started his professional career with S-Pulse, and this was a typical little and large partnership up front. Johnsen 6ft 2in was a difficult opponent in the air, with Shinji moving in the rooms behind and around, being an ideal deal. Shinji scored 42 goals in his 121 league games, before moving to Stuttgart as Johnson also left and returned to Norway and his local club Odd Skien.
When Norwegian fans met Shinji last season he asked about Frode Johnsen, as he described him as a person who had been important for his early career before his time in the Bundesliga and Premier League.
After that remarkable first season, winning Premier League, seeing Okazaki as a key player in a system, giving Vardy the right space and possibility to get into free positioning, terrorising other Premier League teams and their defense, suddenly that was no longer enough and Ranieri himself watering out the combinations by leaving out Okazaki and bringing in totally different type of players.
Okazaki has spent the last seasons at Leicester City as a fringe player, but been called up on when things didn’t work out. He was given a new run in the starting line-up when Craig Shakespeare turned back the clock and masterminded a great run of results to avoid relegation and steer away from a terrible nightmare that was close to appear.
We will never know the answer, but as so many times before, why would it be wrong to just have played Shinji in his position and just continued with the irritating little Japanese destroying defenses together with Jamie Vardy. That might have been one key reason for Ranieri’s fall and final removal.
Now that Shinji’s time at Leicester City looks close to finished, he can look back on two remarkable relations in football, one with the striking wonder Jamie Vardy and one with the oldest player to ever have appeared in a Norwegian national team. Shinji in his own person is a very special player himself, being the Japanese with most appearances in Premier League, one of only two to have won the trophy, and with 116 caps, number four in the list of most international appearances in the history of his nation.