A mainstay at Bochum and rising to legendary status in Japan thanks to some all-important international goals, Takuma Asano has hit his peak at an opportune time for club and country. bundesliga.com puts the hard-working forward under the spotlight.
Club: VfL Bochum
Country: Japan (48 caps, 9 goals)
Currently in his third season with Bochum in the Bundesliga, fan favourite Asano is famous for his menacing style of play and several high-profile performances on the international stage with Japan.
Things started to really take off back in 2013 for the 5'8" forward. Turning pro at Sanfrecce Hiroshima allowed Asano to mix it with the best his nation had to offer and he found himself excelling in only his second season at the club. Named the J.League's Best Young Player for his nine goals and six assists in 34 games in 2015, Asano's contribution to his side's championship-winning cause was significant. The young schemer even scored and laid on a goal as Hiroshima defeated Gamba Osaka 4-3 on aggregate in the competition's showpiece tie.
By now a senior Japan international, Asano was enticed to England as a 21-year-old in 2016 to join Arsene Wenger's Arsenal side. However, as a result of a work permit rejection, the Komono native would never feature for the Gunners.
Arsenal's loss was VfB Stuttgart's gain. The Swabians snapped up the versatile forward on loan and with the Japanese weighing in with four goals and four assists in 26 second-tier games in 2016/17, VfB won promotion to the Bundesliga as champions of the second division.
Unsurprisingly, Stuttgart exercised their option to extend Asano's loan to a second season and a Bundesliga debut thus followed away to Hertha Berlin in August 2017. Asano would score his first-ever Bundesliga goal against his future club Hannover the following November during a campaign when Stuttgart finished in seventh place, just missing out on the European spots.
The Japanese forward's stay at Hannover would take in 15 games in all competitions while a new adventure with Partizan Belgrade that lasted two seasons offered Asano experience in continental competition in the form of the Europa League. By 2021/22, he was back in the Bundesliga with Bochum, signing a three-year deal at the Ruhrstadion for the then newly-promoted side.
Asano has been used in a collection of positions in the attacking third and even on either side of midfield during his time at Bochum, where he has amassed 75 games to date, scoring 13 times while adding seven assists.
An Asian U23 Champion with Japan in 2016, Asano memorably netted twice in the final as his nation defeated South Korea to take the title. He scored his first senior international goal that same year against Bulgaria while his most recent came against Germany in a 4-1 friendly win in Wolfsburg, a night when coach Hansi Flick took charge of the hosts for the last time.
It was also against Germany that Asano celebrated one of his most important career milestones. In Japan's opening game at the 2022 FIFA World Cup - a tournament he battled against injury to feature in - the substitute netted an 83rd minute winner as the Samurai Blue stunned the four-time World Champions with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory.
Plays a bit like: Roberto Firmino
Asano's determination, ability to be in the right place at the right time, calm, clever finishing and high energy levels mark him out as a similar player to former Hoffenheim forward, Brazil international and European Cup winner with Liverpool, Roberto 'Bobby' Firmino.
Did you know?
Asano's brother Yuya has played well in excess of 150 games in Japan and aside from featuring for Takuma's former side Sanfrecce Hiroshima, currently plies his trade with HC Sapporo.
What they're saying
"I felt at home with the lads right away and I think everyone is a class act, both on and off the field." - Asano tells FIFA about life at Bochum.
"[He's] a talented young striker and very much one for the future." - Former Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger speaking after Asano arrived at the Premier League club in 2016.
Watch: Asano at the double against Augsburg
"He’s a versatile attacker and is goal hungry." - Sebastian Schindzielorz, former director of sport at Stuttgart.
"Netting the winner left me with a great sense of relief and the feeling that all my hard work had paid off." - Asano explains to FIFA.com what his 2022 World Cup winning goal against Germany meant to him.
Which Bundesliga players were in action at the Asian Cup?
Find out how far the Germany-based players got with their countries at the Asian Cup in Qatar.
Japan's Bundesliga core that overcame Germany at the World Cup
With eight Germany-based players in their World Cup squad, Japan had plenty of quality as they got one over Hansi Flick's side.
Takuma Asano: Starring for Bochum and Japan
The journey hasn't always been easy for the Komono native, but he's now coming good for club and country.