Ahead of Manchester City’s pre-season opener in Tokyo against Meiji Yasuda J1 League champions Yokohama F·Marinos, treble-winning manager Pep Guardiola took a moment to express his admiration for the growth of Japanese football.
“I have a big, big, big respect and compliment what I think this country has done for many years, not just now,” Guardiola said at Saturday’s pre-match press conference.
Nevertheless, the Man City boss highlighted Japan’s recent FIFA World Cup performance “in a tough, tough, tough group” as a useful data point for just how far the Samurai Blue have come and where they now reside on the global stage.
With City now set to take on the reigning J.League champions, Guardiola also praised one particular talent who excelled in Japan’s top tier before going on to star abroad: Kaoru Mitoma of Brighton & Hove Albion.
“I would say the impact of Mitoma in the Premier League has been incredible,” Guardiola said of the ex-Kawasaki Frontale talent. “I think he’s in the right place right now, with the right manager, and his last season was just extraordinary.”
The Citizens will get a closer look at some of the best players Mitoma battled with in his J.League years on Sunday, with the reigning kings of the domestic pyramid waiting for the Premier League champions in the MEIJI YASUDA J.LEAGUE WORLD CHALLENGE 2023 powered by docomo.
Man City and Yokohama F·Marinos are set to kick off at 19:00, with full match details and broadcast information available here.