Much is made of the salaries of Asian players and how it is difficult to attract players up to the standard of what would be expected of a visa player. We’ve seen Japanese and Korean players doing well at the NPL level and most of these players have come from the university and amateur levels of their countries. Despite their amateur status in the game, they’ve displayed great technique, poise in possession and the ability to change and win matches.
From these players to the elite national team level players there is a lot inbetween. Local players tend to also be paid at a more reasonable rate than we see with some big name foreign signings. Perhaps the bigger issue is more to do with networks and scouting of the region.
Teams in Japan generally have larger squads than what we have in Australia so their overall wage bill can seem to dwarf ours while individual contracts may not be that out of reach from what we have in Australia. The average salary this season in J1 is $443,905AUD however this is heavily skewed due to big name signings Andres Iniesta (41 million AUD), Fernando Torres (10m AUD), and Lukas Podolski (8.1m AUD).
Of the 558 players on professional contracts in J1, around 44 are on 1 million AUD or more (7.9%). Twenty one of the millionaire players are visa players. Positionally, 7 are goalkeepers, 10 defenders, 10 midfielders and 17 forwards. By age, 18 are in their 20s, 25 in their 30s and 1 in their 40s (Shunsuke Nakamura). The average age of J1 is 26.6 so the majority of J1 players are on far less than the veterans and stars in their teams.
Here are some fringe Japanese players and what type of salary they’re on and they’re value per minute rating.
This 20 year old Gamba Osaka player can play as a central midfielder or defensive midfielder. Last season he played in 16 games in all competitions. This season his salary is around $80,700AUD.
The defensive side of the game is his strongest point with him winning his fair share of duels. When he keeps it simple he is most effective.
Value Per Minute (VPM): +2.2
Value per 90 (V90): +200
Shirai is a wingback for Consadole Sapporo. He can play either in the left or right and featured in 15 matches last season. At 24 years old, his salary is $126,500AUD.
His strength is getting forward with his crossing and dribbling being his main weapons.
A defensive midfielder, at 27 years old he’s the oldest player looked at. He’s played 67 J1 games over his career and featured in 6 matches overall for Kawasaki Frontale last season.
Longevity is often rewarded in Japanese society so Shimoda earns a healthy $252,319AUD a season despite not featuring in very many games. He has so far played 8 minutes in the league this current season. The average salary for a first year Aleague visa player is said to be somewhere between $250-280,000AUD.
Despite playing mainly as a defensive midfielder, his attacking play is on par with his defensive work. He is good in a duel but also advances the ball into dangerous positions with his passing.
The most versatile player of this group, he can play in the centre of midfield, as a winger or wingback. He played 9 games in all competitions for Urawa Reds last season and has taken part in 3 games so far this season. The 23 year old earns round $189,750AUD a season.
Another player who does well in duels. His defensive side of his game is his strong point but he needs to be more careful with his distribution.
This player is the most interesting. His circumstances are unusual and possibly unfamiliar for even Japanese football fans. He is a 20 year old left winger for Nagoya Grampus but he’s also a player for Tokaigakuen University.
In 1986, the JFA introduced a Special License Player System which allowed clubs to sign players who were refistered with their high school or university teams. These players were effectively apprentices on one year trials. They were eligible to play in official and sanctioned JFA games but received no payments.
This system was changed in 2003. Now the players who remain registered with their school sides can only be signed to four 1-monthly contracts. So for example, they could be used in April and sent back to their school for May and called up again in June. They still do not get paid.
Kodama, who played in 9 matches last season, is one such player. Effectively playing as an amateur, he is by far the best value amongst the players looked at. Solid both in attack and defensively, he wins a lot of duels, can take players on and plays dangerous balls in the attacking areas. His biggest weakpoint is when he plays more conservatively with him missing a relatively high number of back passes.
*All salaries obtained from https://www.soccer-money.net/
** Stats used to obtain values from https://platform.wyscout.com/app/