Player dubbed 'bigger than Beckham' after Premier League move but flopped under the pressure
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A player dubbed 'bigger than Beckham' flopped in the Premier League following his transfer as he 'lacked belief'.
Introducing Junichi Inamoto who carried the hopes of Japan on his shoulders following his move to Arsenal in 2001.
He signed for the Gunners on a season-long loan from J-League side Gamba Osaka for the 2001/02 season.
His unveiling attracted plenty of media interest and garnered more attention than the likes of Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell.
Inamoto drew comparisons with Beckham due to his appearance and off-the-pitch appeal, with a Japanese reporter explaining how popular he was back in Asia.
"Junichi is huge. People want to know everything about Junichi. Whatever he does and wherever he goes, Kyodo follows it."
But Inanmoto was unable to make an impression on the field as Arsene Wenger did not use him in the Premier League.
He played just four games in all competitions for Arsenal, with Wenger sharing his thoughts on why the midfielder failed to deliver at the club.
"He missed something," he said. "He had the basic quality but he missed something in the physical aspect, stamina, to be a box-to-box, up-and-down midfielder in the Premier League.
"Also at that time he lacked a little bit of belief in his qualities, because he was a very good footballer, Inamoto, but he was still in a period when the Japanese players didn't feel they were at the level of the rest of the world."
Inamoto himself was aware of the comparisons with Beckham as he joked that he would need a celebrity partner.
"Can I be bigger than Beckham? Yes, but West Brom would have to win the Premiership and Japan win the World Cup," he said during his spell at West Brom.
"Also I would need a pop star wife. I don't have one, but I hope I can one day, just like Beckham.
"In Japan a lot of people notice me, but Beckham does a lot of commercials and his wife is very famous. West Brom is not so well known, although there is more interest there now because of the connection with me."
Inamoto joined Fulham from Arsenal before making the switch to West Brom. He also had a stint in the Championship with Cardiff City.