Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey is staying mum, but sources have indicated there is indeed heavy Sounders interest in Japanese forward Keisuke Honda of AC Milan. Nothing can happen until a sale of the Italian squad to a Chinese consortium becomes official.
There have been strong rumors linking the Sounders to Japanese forward Keisuke Honda of AC Milan, which would, of course, be a major addition in this market for a team looking to take its product global.
The Sounders, of course, are staying as mum as can be about the situation, with general manager Garth Lagerwey telling me Saturday afternoon that the team has a policy of not speaking about players under contract with other clubs.
But sources close to the situation have also told me the Sounders are indeed pursuing Honda, 30, and there is interest from the player’s camp in having him come here. Honda wants to play in next year’s World Cup and there’s no way he’ll be able to do that if he sits on the bench the rest of the year as he’s been doing with the Italian squad for several weeks.
The big problem right now, one that might not get resolved until summertime, is when an already-agreed-to sale of AC Milan will actually go through.
Remember, the Milan side is owned by controversial former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who initially said the team’s $825-million sale in December to Chinese consortium Sino-Europe would be completed by March 3. That could still be the case, or, maybe not. With transactions this large, there are a multitude of legal technicalities that can intervene and delays of weeks, even months, are commonplace.
Until that sale takes place, the Sounders won’t have the chance to speak to the new ownership group in order to negotiate the transfer. The current owners are likely fully willing to part ways with Honda, given he’s barely played. But the new owners are buying a team they think still has Honda on it, so there’s no way to ask their permission to change the squad’s makeup by such a degree until they are actually in charge.
So, is anything going to happen the next day or two? Nope. The next week? No. Could it happen the week after that? Possibly.
But first, the sale has to go through. Until it does, all the smoke from those rumors that began circulating just more than 24 hours ago doesn’t mean a thing. Keep your eye on the AC Milan sale. Once that is finalized, the Sounders can reach out to the new owners to seek permission to acquire Honda. Then everybody can start exchanging numbers and conditions.
For now, that’s where it all stands.
Is this exciting? Sure is. Honda is to Japanese soccer what Ichiro is to baseball in that country.
Having covered Ichiro extensively both here and a bit in Japan, I can tell you that landing him would be a coup for the Sounders both on and off the field. I’d look forward to seeing all my Japanese media pals once again, crowding into the pressbox for soccer games at CenturyLink Field the way they did for Mariners games at Safeco Field. That’s the kind of global exposure this signing would give the Sounders — opening their product up to a whole new market the way the Mariners did with Ichiro.
Not to mention, it would give the Sounders one of the league’s top attacks as they try to repeat as MLS Cup champions. Now, there’s no way Honda at this stage of his career is in his prime the way Ichiro was when he showed up in Seattle. Ichiro had a Hall of Fame career in Seattle while Honda has already made his name. But still, it would be a huge addition for all sorts of reasons.