Maya Yoshida

Maya Yoshida is a Japanese central defender who was born in Nagasaki, Japan on 24th August 1988. Yoshida began his career with Nagoya Grampus, making his breakthrough in 2007. In 2008 he received a call up to the Japan U23 team, representing the Samurai Blue at the Olympic Games in Beijing. His club form was first class too. Yoshida helped Nagoya Grampus qualify for the Champions League. He scored the first goal in the competition against Ulsan Hyundai on 10th March 2009.

In December 2009 Yoshida joined Dutch outfit VVV Venlo. On 6th January 2010 he made his debut for the senior Japanese side in an Asia Cup qualifier against Yemen. Yoshida went down with an injury just weeks after signing with Venlo, which ruled him out for months. Once he recovered he settled in well. Yoshida really came to prominence in 2011. He helped Japan to a historic Asia Cup win in January. Yoshida scored a last minute equaliser in the group game with Jordan, which sent Alberto Zaccheroni's men on their way. He helped Venlo survive the Eredivise drop in 2010/11 and 2011/12. Yoshida proved his worth at the other end of the pitch during 2011/12, netting 5 goals, including the strike of the season in a 3-3 draw with PSV, a perfectly struck overhead kick.

Yoshida was part of Japan's 2012 Olympic squad. He helped his country reach the semi-finals of the competition, scoring in a 3-0 win over Egypt at Old Trafford on 4th August. He started Venlo's first two games of the 2012/13 campaign, before making the move to Southampton on 30th August. Yoshida was thrown in at the deep end at Arsenal on September 15th after just a couple of training sessions. He was turned inside out by Gervinho in a 6-1 defeat. The player steadily improved as the games rolled by. He notched his first clean sheet in a League Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday on 25th September. Showed his attacking capabilities in the 3-1 defeat at Everton, with a forward run which eventually resulted in the goal. Yoshida was moved to full-back against Fulham and West Ham, where he was less impressive. He looked uneasy at West Brom in November, but much improved in the 3-1 win at QPR. Yoshida’s timing and reading of the game was near perfect at Loftus Road. That proved to be the turning point. Saints tightened up at the back, with Yoshida playing a key role. His passing was occasionally slightly wayward, but he was defensively solid during most games. He looked better at right-back against Stoke on 29th December, before another impeccable showing over Arsenal on New Year’s Day. Yoshida was one of many players who thrived immediately following Mauricio Pochettino's arrival. He was flawless in the 0-0 draw with Everton and in the 3-1 win over Manchester City. Yoshida was at fault for goals conceded against Wigan and QPR, but errors were generally rare. The centre-back had a brilliant habit of being in the right place at the right time, especially at Norwich on March 9th where he prevented two certain goals with last ditch challenges. He was instrumental in helping Saints secure wins over Liverpool, Chelsea and Reading. Yoshida had a rare off day against West Brom on April 27th, before dropping to the bench for the last three games of the season with a slight injury.

Away from club football Yoshida helped Japan qualify for the World Cup before anyone else in 2013. He was also part of his country's Confederations Cup squad in Brazil, where he took part in three disappointing defeats.