It didn’t take long for Takashi Inui – Eibar’s slender Japanese winger – to open the scoring against Girona at the Ipurua; 41 seconds to be precise. An energetic start from one of Eibar’s most energetic players, and a timely reminder as to how the Asian player has progressed since joining the Basque club over two years ago.
Fleet-footed and tricky on the ball, many fans of Eibar would have been intrigued as to what Inui would bring to the party when he signed from German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt, in a league where he featured alongside a host of other celebrated Asian players.
As for settling into life in Spain, that would not be an issue. Inui had already left his homeland of Japan to join VfL Bochum in his early twenties, where he launched his career, transiting over 5,500 miles in the process.
From there, he progressed from second division football with Bochum, to Eintracht in the Bundesliga where he made an impact, culminating in a move away from the grand Commerzbank Arena to the rickety Ipurua, and the fascinating project of up-and-coming Eibar.
Perhaps a new style of football presented itself in La Liga, but the well-travelled international has proven that he can adapt, as he demonstrated against the Catalans with his quick-fire goal, waltzing past Girona defenders before firing beyond goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.
He has in glimpses demonstrated his talent, and has proved to be a useful cog in Eibar’s flexible machine. A machine which has surprised many with an intricate brand of football whilst combining an element of Basque aggression, which has helped establish them comfortably mid-table.
For the sprinkling of away fans who visited the Camp Nou earlier this year, they saw Inui’s brightest moment first hand; a thumping shot which crashed in off the underside of the crossbar to secure a famous 2-0 away victory for Eibar and a goal worthy of any Barcelona great.
However, these moments have been few and far between. Indeed, Inui has found the net on a sporadic basis, but was recently cast back into the La Liga spotlight after his performance against Girona, where he scored twice, adding to his goal against Valencia on the previous Matchday in a surprise victory.
Inui is – like many promising Asian players – talented. Yet, in order to stake a claim as one of the league’s most dangerous attackers, he needs to produce his magic on a more regular basis; magic which has granted him status as a sporting icon back in Japan, where he was drafted away from La Liga commitments to welcome the visit of King Felipe of Spain earlier this April.
We have already seen the age-defying ability of Aritz Aduriz – a completely different type of player – elsewhere in the Basque country, where he has blossomed into a brutish centre-forward in the twilight of his career.
For the Japanese, he is instead a quick and diminutive force, despite his age of 29. If he is utilised as a threat to complement the more physically imposing characters of Sergi Enrich, Pedro Leon and Charles, the best is yet to come from Inui.
If so, maybe a surprise showing at the World Cup in Russia awaits this summer.