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Oct 14, 2005

Miura set for Sydney soccer move

Sydney FC is set to strike a major coup ahead of Australian football's move into Asia, with the A-League club close to securing the services of Japanese star Kazuyoshi Miura for December's Club World Championships in Tokyo.

Sydney chief executive Tim Parker expected the former international, currently playing for Yokohama FC in the J-League second division, to sign with the club in the next few weeks as the league's first guest player.

Miura, 38, would be available to play up to four A-League games as part of the short-term loan.

He would also be available for the Club World Championships - practically giving Sydney the home town support as Miura would be the only Japanese player to feature in the tournament.

With Australia joining the Asian confederation next year, Sydney FC is hoping Miura's inclusion will give the club a major boost in gaining a foothold in the Asian market.

"For Sydney FC it's a double whammy, what he can do for us on the pitch is one thing, what he can do for us off the pitch in terms of getting Japanese support behind the club is another," Parker said.

"Asia is a very important audience for us long term, we want to build all the bridges we can there.

"So if we can go over there with a squad that is as strong as ours is normally, and we can add to that and show that we can embrace and understand another country and its football culture, so much the better."

Sydney coach Pierre Littbarski, a former World Cup winner with West Germany, was manager of Yokohama last year and is well known in Japan after more than a decade in the J-League.

He has been involved in talks with Miura for several months, but it has only been in the past few weeks a deal has looked likely.

Yokohama vice-president Hisao Sakamoto said the clubs had reached a verbal agreement on a short-term loan.

"No contract has been signed yet but we have reached a basic accord. I don't think there will be any reverse now," Sakamoto said.

Miura, a former Asian player of the year who represented his country in 91 internationals and was the first Japanese footballer to play professionally in Europe, will add further star power to an already sparkling Sydney team featuring former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke and Littbarski.

While in the twilight of a career which featured stints abroad with Genoa in the Serie A and Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb, Miura remains one of the most charismatic personalities in Japanese football.

His sudden transfer from first division club Vissel Kobe to Yokohama this year attracted mass media attention, and his presence at the second division club has almost doubled its crowds.

Sydney will play North/Central American champions Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica) in the opening round in Tokyo, with the winner facing European champions Liverpool in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, new signing John Buonavoglia will likely be named in Sydney's squad for Sunday's top-of-the-table clash against Adelaide United at Aussie Stadium with Yorke unavailable on international duty.

The former Parramatta Power striker, who has already had two guest stints with Sydney and played in the 3-1 win over the New Zealand Knights last month, is expected to start on the bench.