JAPAN coach Alberto Zaccheroni praised his protege Keisuke Honda today for stretching himself to fit into AC Milan’s mould, a month after moving from CSKA Moscow.
The 27-year-old midfielder joined the Serie-A giants in early January on a free transfer after three years with the Russian champions.
Italian media has minced no words in reviewing his performances, lambasting his low-key performance in a 1-1 draw with Torino on Saturday.
“I think he has consciously increased such moves as getting behind defenders or going toward the goal by breaking the defence, which have not been part of his stock in trade,” Zaccheroni told reporters at Tokyo’s Narita airport on his return from a holiday in Italy.
“He has been doing all right by following my advice,” added the Italian tactician, who coached Serie-A sides including AC Milan and Juventus before taking over the Blue Samurai after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Honda has been a key player for the Asian champions, usually positioned behind a lone striker, after he helped Japan reach the last 16 in South Africa.
“Due to tough competition, (Honda) has been often used in an unfamiliar right position. But I want him to hang in there,” the 60-year-old coach said.