AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda has started the season stunningly for the Italian giants.
The Japanese international netted a brace as the Rossoneri continued their excellent start under new manager Filippo Inzaghi with a 3-1 victory over Verona, seeing them consolidate their position as fourth in the Serie A table.
And with all the signs pointing towards a potentially successful season, Honda may have a key role in deciding where Inzaghi’s side finish at the end of the campaign in May.
After announcing a deal to leave Russian outfit CSKA Moscow for Milan in October last year, he joined the side in January but was unable to prevent their slump to eighth under the stewardship of both Massimiliano Allegri and Clarence Seedorf.
The Dutchman may have overseen a renaissance of sorts but was replaced by his former team-mate and club great Inzaghi, who has assembled a squad to help his star player fire.
Jeremy Menez was snared on a free transfer from Laurent Blanc’s Paris St Germain, whilst Chelsea saw Fernando Torres leave Stamford Bridge on a two-year loan deal to help lead the line following Mario Balotelli’s departure to Liverpool.
Stephan El Shaarawy missed large chunks of last season through injury, but is another who is integral in helping Honda to become so pivotal and another helping the Rossonieri to thrive.
However, in spite of all the promise surround the Japanese superstar, few expected him to make the stunning start that he has.
With no European football to contend with the emphasis at the start of the season was mounting a serious challenge for the Scudetto, and Honda’s goals mean they trail league leaders and current champions Juventus by five points.
He has found the net six times in seven appearances and currently tops the Italian goalscoring charts along with Carlos Tevez and Napoli forward and Arsenal transfer target Jose Callejon.
The 28-year-old scored in the season’s opening game against Lazio as they won 3-1, before also finding the net and providing an assist in the 5—4 win away at Parma.
He netted in the 2-2 draw away at Empoli, and also struck as they beat Chievo at the San Siro earlier this month.
Milan are thriving without Balotelli in their ranks, and could have a great season under Inzaghi despite his lack of managerial experience.
Ex-Chelsea star Michael Essien compared the Italian to Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, highlighting the respect and admiration the players feel for their new manager.
Securing a quick return to the Champions League is the priority, but if Honda continues to shine they could end their four-year wait for the title and end Juventus’ recent spell of domestic dominance.