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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 07:33 GMT 08:33 UK
Arsenal's Inamoto effect
Inamoto hopes to increase his profile at Highbury
Inamoto hopes to increase his profile at Highbury
BBC Sport Online chief football writer Phil McNulty explains how claims that Arsenal has pulled off a cynical ploy to invade the lucrative Japanese market by signing Junichi Inamoto may be wide of the mark.

Junichi Inamoto's 3.5m move to Arsenal has been portrayed in some quarters as a signing fuelled by finance rather than football.

Inamoto may be one of the men Japan will pin their hopes on when they host the World Cup next summer - but he is a small player on the global stage.

It did not stop Arsene Wenger returning to the Land of the Rising Sun to snap up the 21-year-old midfield man from Gamba Osaka.

Arsenal's move was regarded by some as a cynical leap aboard a gravy train that could allegedly net them in excess of 100m for a player who will not be a regular at Highbury.

Images were conjured up of thousands of Japanese tourists booking package trips to see the favoured son .

Ono  has moved to Feyenoord
Ono has moved to Feyenoord
Arsenal, so it was said, only had to sit back and watch the Yen roll in as upwards of 100,000 Inamoto shirts were sold.

And Wenger himself could happily count the cash from internet rights and the sale of reserve team matches to Japanese television.

At least that was the theory.

But in Japan, Wenger's move is seen more as move to take advantage of a reasonably priced transfer market, and a move to take a chance on a promising young player.

Inamoto is a low-profile Japanese player from a low-profile Japanese club - and not the man who is the photo-fit of a gimmick signing simply designed to be a human cashpoint.

From Japan, BBC World Service's Guy de Launey explained the background to a move greeted with an element of surprise in Inamoto's homeland.

He told BBC Sport Online: "I have been out on the streets here in Japan and the people I spoke to were not that aware of Inamoto.

"He is not that big a star over here and he was with a team that has never won the championship. Inamoto is by no means a superstar here.

"There has been more interest in Shinji Ono's move to Feyenoord in Holland from Urawa Red Diamonds, because he is a real star out here.

"Ono has been a star here for a while, even when Urawa went down into the second division. There was surprise Ono only went to a club like Feyenoord.

Nakamura - future star
Nakamura - future star
"The Inamoto move has created interest in Japan, particularly because of the huge respect enjoyed by Arsene Wenger from his time at Grampus Eight.

"The talk about Wenger being wanted to lead the Japan national team was not just idle speculation. He commands huge respect, which I think is mutual, and was being referred to as simply "Mister Wenger" when the signing led the Monday Soccer Special programme.

"People like Hidetoshi Nakata were real media stars when they left Japan, but that does not apply to Inamoto.

"I certainly wouldn't have picked him out, knowing Japanese and British football as I do, as someone who would make it in the Premiership. He is not a big star in Japan.

"I think it is a myth about thousands of replica shirts being sold and Arsenal cashing in. I think Arsene Wenger has simply made what he regards to be a good transfer at a reasonable price for someone he thinks will develop into a good player for Arsenal.

"If he wanted to make the sort of signing that would have the financial effect people are talking about, he may have signed Ono, or someone else I believe will be a star abroad, Shunsuke Nakaumura from Yokohama Marinos.

"He is a real star of the under-23 side, a creative midfield player who will make a real impact."

Arsenal will hope to capture a slice of the Japanese market via Inamoto's popularity, but it may actually be that football rather than finance came first when the wily Wenger plotted his latest transfer deal.

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