A champion falls: SCOUT NOTES, January 31st
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Jürgen’s gone. The Premier League has lost a great, and Liverpool have lost a legend.
Academy football has also lost one of its leading champions. As we went over in an issue of SCOUT NOTES earlier this month, there is no elite-level coach like Jürgen Klopp when it comes to trusting home-grown youngsters.
His tenure at Liverpool has been littered with spells in which he’s turned to his own to fill gaps at pivotal periods in seasons, often squeezing the most out of players that have no business starting for a side that’s competing for Premier League and Champions League titles.
We discussed his legacy in greater detail on the latest episode of SCOUTED Weekly, our — you guessed it — weekly roundtable chat on the important things that have happened in the football world over the past — you guessed it — week. Tune into that, and drop us a rating. That would be very handy.
Anyway, on with the newsletter. We’ve got Japanese pathways, non-league excellence, Prince Charles, and, as always, Football Manager in this one…
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Gate 1: Japan to Belgium
Japanese football is becoming ever more popular. The J.LEAGUE is (finally) breaking into the mainstream consciousness of the western football fan, and a lot of that can be attributed to breakout talents like Kaoru Mitoma, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Wataru Endo.
What do all three of those have in common? A lot of things. But the one that’s pertinent for this newsletter is that they all landed in Belgium when they first made the leap to European football. Mitoma spent a season at Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, while Tomiyasu and Endo cut their teeth at Sint-Truiden, a Lumburgian club owned by a Japanese e-commerce company.
Resounding successes often set trends for others to follow, and that’s exactly what’s happened. Belgium is now the go-to gateway into European football for Japanese talent. With every passing transfer window, more and more are moving to the Pro League from the J.LEAGUE.
Indeed, that plays out in the numbers: Japan is the third-most represented nation when it comes to players in the Pro League this season, only topped by Belgians (obviously) and the French. That’s a telling stat.
Another batch of Japanese talent has moved to Belgium this January, too. Ryotaro Tsunoda and Haruya Fuji – a pair of centre-backs that have been involved in senior Japan squads – have both moved to KV Kortrijk, the former via sister club Cardiff City; Takahiro Akimoto has been picked up by OH Leuven, and a trio of teenage youth internationals have joined the B teams of Anderlecht and Genk.
Expect to see even more — including a few featured in the piece, which is free to read, above — follow them this year and beyond. By being brave in their recruitment, Belgian clubs have established a firm and fruitful foothold for themselves in a rapidly growing market.
The English football pyramid is amazing
As the January transfer window comes to a close, one move that we love is Josh Stokes to Bristol City. Why? Because it means the teenager has gone from the eighth tier of English football to the second tier within six months.
An intermediate move to Aldershot Town, who started the season on fire in the fifth-tier National League, put him on the agenda at Bristol City and a number of other clubs, including a couple of Premier League ones. Stokes has scored 16 goals in 31 games for the Shots already and will see out the season there.
In terms of the move itself, it makes a lot of sense for both sides. Bristol City have a strong track record when it comes to polishing talent plucked from lower leagues — Alex Scott is the prime example, whom they nabbed from non-league Guernsey, albeit at a younger age.
This move is yet another reminder of the staggering depth of talent — and history, and tradition, and passion, and community — there is within the English football pyramid. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Get out and support your local non-league club because you could be watching a future Premier League player.
The grass is (sometimes) greener
Charles De Ketelaere had a torrid first season in Serie A. There was a lot of justified excitement around his move to AC Milan — it was a record fee, he was coming off an excellent season in Belgium, and Milan were reloading to defend their league title — but he failed to live up to it. One assist in 40 appearances is not good going.
Atalanta made a bet on his ability in the summer. They were quick to take him from Milan, who were looking to replenish their squad after a disappointing season of their own. A deal – initially loan, with a €23 million option to make it permanent – and De Ketelaere was bumped over to Bergamo.
Guess what? He’s flourished. The lanky Belgian has contributed to 14 goals in 1,488 minutes across all competitions, including three goals and six assists in Serie A. He’s predominantly playing as one of the two behind the striker in Mister Gasperini’s 3-4-2-1 shape, mainly working off the lovely linker-upper that is Gianluca Scamacca.
The moral of the story is this: just because a player doesn’t do well at a certain club, it doesn’t mean that player is a bad player all of a sudden. There are a lot of factors at play, all pushing against each other. It’s never as binary as good-player-is-actually-shit-player.
A little bit of self promotion…
We aren’t great at hyping ourselves up. We’re probably not shameless enough to relentlessly bump the work we do, or drop into some DMs and say ‘share this’, but we really should start doing that. So we’re starting to do that…
First off, read our exclusive interview with Adam Wharton — we’re really proud of it, and it’s timely because he’s about to seal a mega move to Crystal Palace. We chatted about Rovers, Frenkie, brutality, and so much more. It’s well worth a read, particularly if you’re of a Palace persuasion.
Second off, Ali Al-Hamadi has just signed for Ipswich Town. It’s a move we like, not least because we picked him out as one of the best-value bargains to be had in the January window using SkillCorner data. We also showed that he fits in well within a Championship context. Well done Ali, and well done us.
The Football Manager Corner
We’re not pulling up trees with this one. If you’ve played FM24, you will probably know who Sverre Halseth Nypan is. The teenage Norwegian midfielder is perhaps the must-have wonderkid in this year’s edition.
Just look at his profile — athletic, compact, two-footed, technically skilled, mentally solid, all at 17 years old (or 16 when you start your saves in the summer). His attainability, often available for under €5 million, makes him the go-to prospects to sign at the start of your saves as well. Leave it too late and the likes of Paris Saint-Germain will snap him up.
We’ve been watching him in real life recently. We can confirm that he’s good. Properly good, excitingly good. FM have done a good job building his profile because it’s a pretty accurate reflection of what he is as a player. You’ll be hearing a lot more (especially from us) about Nypan in 2024.
SCOUTED’s Reading List
- is doing Billy Carpenter things again. He’s built a BEAST model to find the perfect striker for Arsenal, and written a load of interesting stuff to go with it. If you want to read something truly unique in the football analysis world, read that — and subscribe for more.
How on earth do you replaced Jürgen Klopp? That’s the question asked byin her latest newsletter. She runs through the problems and permutations of the practically impossible task of finding a suitable successor for a Liverpool legend.
We love the boys at. Their podcasts are the best in the business, and their Substack has been a more than welcome addition to our reading rotation. A little birdie tells us (it’s Ali, who’s been teasing it all week) that they have something massive planned for tomorrow’s transfer deadline day. Don’t miss out on that.
And finally… this is something to watch, rather than read: Bunch of Amateurs. We’ve recommended them before, but as an independent publication ourselves, we know how much work goes into what they do. If you want a proper insight into non-league English football, start with their Uncovered series — on Charlwood, Dorking Wanderers, Walton & Hersham, Holland Sports, and now Raynes Park Vale.
Subscribe now for the best youth football journalism on the internet. We would be very greateful if you do so. G’wan. It’s free.