For some Bundesliga fans, Makoto Hasebe has been just another Bundesliga player who has been around for about 12 years now. He has plied his trade with two clubs during this time, without taking too much spotlight. But for many Asians, Hasebe is an icon worth looking up to and replicating.
Not just Asians, Hasebe can well be seen as a legend by many regular Bundesliga followers. The Japanese international has been a consistent presence for both Eintracht and Wolfsburg during his spells there, playing a variety of roles on the pitch. He has never sought any attention and has gone about his job silently and diligently.
Currently, Hasebe is almost a sweeper for Frankfurt under Adi Hutter. Playing in a 3-4-1-2 shape, Hasebe is the most central defender. He constantly uses his impressive footballing brain to help the side build from the back and spark attacks from deep. This bookmaking portal even has Hasebe as favourite to be crowned Japanese Footballer of the Year as a result.
Gone are those days when he would play as a full-back who would do just about the same. But with increasing age, Hasebe has adapted to a more laid-back yet crucial role on the pitch. He would often play as a right midfielder during his time at Wolfsburg. He would work hard, playing both roles very well for the club.
Hasebe first came to Germany from Japanese club Urawa Reds in the summer of 2008. He had risen up the ranks at the club, becoming their regular defensive midfielder over a period of three years. He made a total of 215 appearances during his time at Urawa, scoring 24 times and racking up a total of 17 assists as well.
It was during this time that Hasebe made his debut for the Japanese national team. It came way back in 2006 against the United States in an international friendly. Since then, he has been playing as the defensive midfielder for the national team. Despite age catching up with him, Hasebe has not been dislodged from the defensive midfield position by anyone else.
He brings a real sense of calm to which side he plays for. He’s acquired years of experience of playing at a variety of levels, playing different positions. He has that footballing mind that Hutter and Niko Kovac saw when making him the foundation of the attack and defence.
Playing in the centre of the back three, Hasebe isn’t the one who has to win tackles. This season, he has won just a single tackle per game, making 1.3 interceptions per game. But he has been playing the highest number of passes per game this season- 63.6. He has the highest passing percentage too- 88.6. That says a lot about how Hasebe has become in recent years.
Bar the two goalkeepers Kevin Trapp and Fredrik Ronnow, Hasebe is playing the highest 6long-balls per game- 6.3. He is trusted with the ball, circulating it to the forwards and making sure he lays the foundation for the attack. This is the modern-day sweeper playing very well at the age of 35.
Former Eagles’ boss Kovac has talked about the same during his stint at the club three years ago.
The former Bayern Munich boss said (via Bundesliga.com): “Hasebe is a one-off and a pro through and through,” said the 45-year-old. I had a player called Tsuneyasu Miyamoto when I was at FC Salzburg. He was the long-time captain of Japan and an icon in his homeland. I’ve told Hasi [Hasebe], ‘Now you’re the icon’.”
Hasebe is the sort of professional who upcoming Japanese generations can look upto and admire. He is known to be a no-nonsense character. He has that workman-like Japanese grit about him. The only thing he cares about is playing for the team. That is what makes him a very likeable figure for so many managers, despite his age.
His contributions to his country and clubs have been invaluable. He is already hailed as an ‘icon’ in Japan, it is high time he gets the same regard in every Bundesliga-following household.