The seven stages of Ryo Miyaichi’s career: ‘Ryodinho’ to comeback kid
Former Arsenal prospect Ryo Miyaichi was once compared to Ronaldinho – but the winger’s career has failed to pan out as was expected when he first burst onto the scene.
Miyaichi was among many promising youngsters to generate hype about his potential under Arsene Wenger – just ask anyone who played Football Manager around the early part of the decade.
We’ve looked back on his career to date to see how he has progressed since first moving to north London.
Miyaichi was born into a family with a good sporting pedigree, with his father, Tatsuya, a former basketball player and coach, and his younger brother, Tsuyoshi, also a professional footballer.
Ryo first began to catch the eye in his native Japan, and at the age of 14 he trained with both Feyenoord and Ajax in the Netherlands.
After playing for his high school in the televised All Japan High School Soccer Tournament in 2010, he was invited for a trial at Arsenal that summer.
Come December, Wenger confirmed the 18-year-old would join the Gunners the following month, commenting that Miyaichi “has raw ability which has attracted many clubs around the world. I look forward to helping him fulfil his potential here”.
Having previously managed Japanese side Grampus Eight, the Frenchman added: “It’s very important that Asia is represented at our club.”
Unable to secure a work permit in England, Miyaichi returned to Feyenoord on loan for the second half of the 2010-11 season.
He became an immediate hit in the Eredivisie, winning Man of the Match on his debut and becoming the youngest Japanese goalscorer in the competition’s history in his second appearance.
Come the end of the campaign, Miyaichi had registered three goals and five assists in 12 matches for Feyenoord, with the Dutch media dubbing the forward “Ryodinho”, in honour of Ronaldinho.
Back at Arsenal, Miyaichi impressed in pre-season training ahead of the 2011-12 campaign and was granted dispensation for a work permit on the grounds of his “exceptional talent” following evidence supplied by Wenger and the Japanese FA.
Now a member of the Gunners’ first-team squad, Miyaichi made two substitute appearances in League Cup victories over Shrewsbury Town and Bolton Wanderers only to suffer his first injury setback in November as an ankle knock ruled him out for a period.
Despite the blow, the teenager was more than willing to bide his time. “I am not in a rush. The manager advises me not to and to concentrate on training,” he told Arsenal’s official website.
“The biggest change is that I train and play with these top players. I never imagined myself in this position a year ago when I was playing in the high school championship qualifiers in Japan.
“I can tell I am improving a lot through training sessions with my team-mates. I am also getting used to expressing myself to them without hesitation.”
Once Miyaichi had returned to full fitness, he was again sent out on loan, joining Bolton until the end of the season, much to the delight of Trotters boss Owen Coyle.
“Ryo has unbelievable ability, he has got pace to burn without wanting to warn opponents, he is lightning quick.” Coyle said. “He has also got great feet and is only going to get better.
“When he gets his chance he will show everybody what he can do. The proof will be in the pudding, but you will see what he has in his locker. He gets the ball and then something can happen.”
Again he started brightly, scoring on his first start in an FA Cup win at Millwall and being voted the club’s February Player of the Month by Bolton supporters.
In 12 Premier League appearances, he produced two assists for team-mates but failed to hit the back of the net as the Lancashire outfit were relegated to the Championship.
On the move
Miyaichi was again on the move the following season, but it would be the start of a series of frustrating deals which saw the winger fail to impress.
Only seven appearances came in an injury-hit season on loan at Wigan in which he missed their run to a shock FA Cup triumph over Manchester City as a second consecutive campaign ended in relegation for the Japan international.
A Champions League debut followed in August 2013 in a 2-0 win over Fenerbahce, and he made clear his desire not to go out on loan again, telling Arsenal’s official website: “I can’t move away at the moment – I just want to focus on each training session here and that is what the boss wants me to do.
“I want to learn from world-class players – it’s fantastic to play with them even in training and, as I said before, it really does make you a better player.”
But only four more first-team appearances followed for the Gunners as further injuries hampered his development, and he was sent on loan to FC Twente for the 2014-15 season.
There were hopes Miyaichi could rediscover his Feyenoord form back in the Eredivisie, but he ultimately made more appearances for club’s reserve side in the second tier.
After such an underwhelming few years, Miyaichi’s five-year stay at Arsenal came to an end when he joined cult German outfit St Pauli on a three-year deal in 2015.
“We want to offer Ryo a home after all the loans in recent years so he can return to his old power,” sports director Thomas Meggle told the club’s official website. “We are convinced that he will improve our offensive game with his qualities.”
But it was a familiar story for the luckless attacker, as a cruciate ligament injury wiped him out for the majority of his debut campaign.
Having yet to make 20+ appearances in a single season, another serious knee injury suffered in training ruled him out of the whole of 2017-18.
— FC St. Pauli English (@fcstpauli_EN) June 28, 2017
Despite numerous setbacks, Miyaichi remains at St Pauli, and this season has brought some well-deserved highs for the winger.
In September he came off the bench to make his first appearance in over a year and headed a late winner at Ingolstadt, and he made his first start since May 2017 in a 3-1 win over SV Sandhausen at the start of October.
Given his misfortune with injuries, the 26-year-old is unlikely to fulfil his early promise as a footballer, but it would take a heart of stone to begrudge him the enjoyment of simply being back out on a pitch again.