Melbourne Victory announce Keisuke Honda signing

The A-League’s Melbourne Victory on Monday announced the signing of Japanese midfielder Keisuke Honda as the league’s first-ever Asian marquee player, giving fans a happy conclusion to a will-they-or-won’t-they transfer saga that had unfolded since the World Cup.

After the player himself hinted that Australia was his next destination in an August 2 interview with Japanese internet streaming network AbemaTV, the Victory finally made it official with a flashy video posted to the club’s official Twitter account declaring “the wait is over!”

In a press conference broadcast on Fox Sports Australia, Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro expressed his hope that Honda’s arrival would boost turnout in the A-League’s 14th season.

“This signing presents a wonderful opportunity for our club’s ambitions,” Di Pietro said. “I urge all of our supporters to help make Melbourne Victory the first A-League club to reach 30,000 members.

Honda’s arrival was made possible by a marquee fund offered by Fox Sports and the Football Federation of Australia (FFA). But manager Kevin Muscat made it clear that it was the former Milan man’s abilities on the pitch, rather than his star power or commercial potential, that made the difference.

“He’s a hugely driven individual as many people have seen over his career,” Muscat told Fox Sports Australia. “To have someone from the football side of things who can contribute heavily to our team and to the competition is the most defining thing for me.

“He’s been nothing short of committed and motivated so we’re really looking forward to welcoming to Melbourne.”

In a pre-taped interview from Los Angeles, Honda expressed his enthusiasm in English, revealing that Victory’s interest had come as a surprise.

“I didn’t expect to get the offer. My brother (Honda’s agent) told me after the World Cup that Melbourne were interested in me,” Honda said. “I never thought I would play in Australia in my career.

“Melbourne Victory are the most successful club in the A-League’s last 13 years. When I talked to [Kevin Muscat], [I sensed a lot of] passion. I love that. That’s one reason why I decided to play with the club.”

The 32-year-old, who in June became the first Japanese player to score in three straight FIFA World Cup tournaments, is scheduled to arrive in Melbourne next week.