Leeds United are closing in on the signing of Japan international Yosuke Ideguchi in time for the January transfer window, reports claim. The Championship promotion hopefuls have been striving to improve their links with Asia and could acquire their first ever signing from the Land of the Rising Sun.
The Yorkshire Evening Post understands The Whites are locked in talks over bringing the 21-year-old midfielder to Elland Road, with an agreement possible before the transfer window re-opens at the turn of the year. Ideguchi is currently plying his trade in the J-League with Gamba Osaka, but is braced for a switch to Europe.
Victor Orta, the Leeds sporting director, said last week the club were close to "signing a big surprise from Asia", with all indicators now pointing to Ideguchi. The club has improved their ties with Asia with ex-Japan international Toshiya Fujita enlisted as the club's head of football development in the area, while owner Andrea Radrizzani visited Japan last month.
But completion of the deal relies on Ideguchi successfully attaining a work permit, should he indeed sign for Leeds. With just three senior appearances for his country, the midfielder falls short of the criteria required to be automatically awarded permission to play in England, meaning Leeds will have to apply to the Football Association for special dispensation.
Ideguchi joined Gamba Osaka as a youngster in 2009. After signing professional terms he had to wait until 2015 to make his debut, having spent a season playing for a J-league Under-22 side in the Japanese third division. He has since racked up 96 appearances in all competitions, scoring eight goals.
In 2016, Ideguchi scooped a series of awards including the New Hero and Rookie of the Year prizes, and was soon garnering attention from the senior Japan national team, following appearances at Under-19 and Under-23 level. These included featuring in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games squad.
He earned his first call-up for the games against Oman and Saudi Arabia at the end of the year but burst on the scene in August 2017, when he scored in a 2-0 win over Australia that secured Japan's place in next year's World Cup in Russia.
Ideguchi is likely to be involved in Japan's plans for the finals next summer and his experience will only grow should he complete a mid-season switch to Leeds for the second half of the campaign. Andreas Christiansen recruited 23 new players during the summer transfer window and the multitude of changes appears to have paid off with the club unbeaten in their opening six games, a run which sees them second in the Championship.