KEY POINTS

  • Japanese League MVP Teruhito Nakagawa named Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard, Mo Salah and Raheem Sterling as references for his game
  • Nakagawa said his childhood idol was David Beckham
  • Takefusa Kubo has earned the nickname "Japanese Messi"

Japanese League’s reigning MVP likened his game to that of Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard and two other Premier League superstars.

After an impressive season with the Yokohama F. Marinos, Teruhito Nakagawa copped his first MVP award and was named J. League’s 2019 Most Valuable Player. The short but incredible right winger tallied a total of 15 goals and 10 assists to become Japan’s best player. Many are convinced that Nakagawa has the same qualities as some of the biggest names in Europe’s top five leagues. And finally, the Japanese star has revealed the main influences of his game.

In a recent exclusive interview with Besoccer.com, the Marinos ace named Argentine icon Messi, Belgium's Hazard and current Premier League superstars Mohamed Salah and Raheem Sterling as the  players to whom he modeled his style after.

"I usually see those great players playing in the same position as me. To name a few, players like Messi, Salah, Hazard and Sterling. I see how they play, how they dribble at defenders and how they reach the best positions to shoot," Nakagawa explained.

Though Nakagawa continues to take a leaf out of these players’ books, he admitted that his childhood idol was David Beckham. According to the MVP, he liked Beckham’s confidence and elegant style of playing.

"He had the confidence and poise to strike the final blow when it mattered most. And he played so elegantly," he said of Beckham.

Lionel Messi almost scored a breathtaking goal but Barcelona were held to a frustrating draw by Slavia Prague Lionel Messi Photo: AFP / LLUIS GENE

Nakagawa started his soccer career at Senshu University. From there, the young Nakagawa continued to progress until he suffered a serious knee injury in 2014.

Despite the injury, Nakagawa’s game didn’t change, and he still proved that he could be a lethal force inside the pitch. Fast forward to the present, Nakagawa still wants to improve his performances with the national team and hopefully make it to the World Cup someday.

"One of my objectives is to play in the World Cup. I will work hard to get to the World Cup qualifying team, and I want to help my team achieve good results through my goals and assists. I need to advance further and become a better player," Nakagawa said.

Another Japanese sensation happened to make it to Europe and made quite a buzz in Spain. Real Madrid youngster Takefusa Kubo has earned the nickname “Japanese Messi” for his resemblance with the Barcelona star in terms of physique and dribbling skills. However, unlike Nakagawa, Kubo doesn’t encourage the comparisons with Messi as he is focused more on making his own mark at Real Madrid.