Manchester United are linked with many players in every transfer window and yet, there is always a name that pops out of nowhere that nobody sees coming. Zion Suzuki is the name for this transfer window.
United have been linked with a shock move for Urawa Red Diamond’s Japanese goalkeeper Zion Suzuki in a deal worth £5 million.
If it goes through, Suzuki will become the most expensive Japanese player of all time, beating Kyogo Furuhashi’s record of £4.5 million.
So, who is Zion Suzuki, and why are United reportedly interested in opening their chequebook for a player from the J-League? Here are the details-
Who is Zion Suzuki?
Zion Suzuki is a 20-year-old goalkeeper for J-League side Urawa Red Diamonds who has come through their youth academy. He has been with the team since 2013 and made his way up the ranks to finally make his senior debut in 2021.
He was born in the United States but has played in Japan his whole career.
Suzuki has been Urawa’s backup goalkeeper during his time there. He has mainly made appearances in the cup competition, the J. League Cup, where he has played 16 games in three years.
He has also been capped internationally by Japan. His international debut came in July 2022.
The main thing which jumps right off the bat while watching Suzuki is his command of the box. For a United fanbase who has grown frustrated with David de Gea’s tendency to stick to his line, Suzuki’s fearless playing style will come as a breath of fresh air.
He regularly leaves his line to claim crosses out of thin air to effectively kill the opposition attacks. This trait allows his team to play a high line with confidence as there is no danger of being caught out on transitions which leave defenders running towards their own goal.
Secondly, he has a good tendency of holding on to the ball while saving it instead of parrying it away.
Parrying the ball can lead to a second shot opportunity for the opposition, especially if it is parried into a dangerous area. His style can be likened to that of Sergio Romero at his best, who would catch the most ferocious shots with startling nonchalance.
There is not enough evidence to make a definitive comment on his ball-playing skills. However, his long-kicking has shown potential where, if groomed correctly, he can be a threat by releasing attackers running beyond the shoulder of the last defender.
Of course, for all the modern sweeping skills, a goalkeeper should still be able to keep the ball out of the net. Zion Suzuki has shown great reflexes and recovery skills in his fledgling career so far in that regard.
He is quick to come out and close down the shooting angle which makes it difficult to beat him. Even when the ball bobbles, he is rapid at getting back up and into an ideal position to save any resulting shot from the wobble.
Still aged just 20, his best years are ahead of him. So, what can be expected from him if/when he joins United?
Zion Suzuki at Manchester United – more than a marketing move
A Japanese player playing for the club would open up even more marketing opportunities for a club that is already a monster in this field.
However, unlike some signings, like Dong Fangzhuo of China, whose signing can be put down mainly to commercial opportunities, Suzuki has the potential to be so much more.
United look close to sealing a deal for Andre Onana who would arrive as the undisputed first choice. However, beyond him, the goalkeeping situation at the club is murky at best.
Things are so dire that Erik ten Hag had to block 37-year-old Tom Heaton’s move to Luton Town in case he was left with no senior goalkeepers.
Therefore, the situation is ripe for Zion Suzuki to come and get a chance to make an impact.
He would play second fiddle to Onana, which would allow him to learn from one of the best sweeper-keepers in world football today.
Playing the odd game in cup competitions against light opposition, at least on paper, would also help him to develop away from the sharp glare that surrounds a United player.
At his age, most of his learning will come from training and supplemented by scattered playing time. United’s goalkeeping situation makes that ideal for Suzuki.
Even for United, this becomes a no-risk gamble. If he succeeds, they’ll have on their books a player who will be the hero of his country. If the gamble doesn’t work out, then the return on investment should still be good as Suzuki will presumably be on lower wages than if United went for a Jack Butland-like option for the backup choice.
In Heaton, Onana, and Suzuki, the club will have a goalkeeper at each stage of the career- the veteran, the world-class, and the potential. All of a sudden, the position that once looked dire and hopeless looks rejuvenated.