Wolves Seal 3-Year Deal for Japan International Hayao Kawabe

Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers have completed the signing of Japan midfielder Hayao Kawabe on a three-year deal. The 26-year-old joins from Swiss side Grasshopper Club Zurich. He becomes the first-ever Japanese to play for Wolves and another Japanese export to reach English shores. However, his stint won’t begin immediately as he will be with Wolves only in January. He will then head back to the Grasshoppers for the rest of the season on loan.

  • Wolves sign 26-year-old midfielder from Grasshoppers
  • The player is the first Japanese to play at the Molineux
  • Hayao Kawabe stays for a month then heads back to Switzerland on loan.

Wolves technical director Scott Sellars has heaped praise on the player whom he says they have watched closely this season. Sellars describes the attacking midfielder as ‘busy, energetic, and of good quality.’ He attributes the Grasshoppers’ great performance so far to Hayao.

GBE Restriction

In that respect, the Grasshoppers sit sixth in the Swiss Super League with 23 points from 18 matches. Similarly, Wolves are currently eighth on the English Premier League table. They have 28 points from 19 games.

Sellars says that the reason they moved in for Hayao in this window is that he may not be available later. GBE’s (Governing Body Endorsement) criteria that guide the signing of international players may be a hindrance to a move in the future. In January, the new signing stays in England while the Swiss League takes a winter break.

Player Profile

Hayao Kawabe is a 5’10 (1.78 m) midfielder born in Hiroshima, Japan (also home to カジノミー). He played his youth career at Sanfrecce Hiroshima from 2008 until 2013. At that point, he was promoted to the senior side. Later, he joined Julio Iwata on loan in the burgeoning J-League before moving to Grasshoppers on a three-year contract in 2021. His star performances have attracted Premier League attention in a short span and earned him a Japan National team call-up. He made his debut in March 2021 during a friendly against South Korea.

He is versatile in midfield where he can create behind two strikers. Also, he can drop deep and operate as a defensive midfielder sitting in front of the backline. He has shown great effectiveness in both roles and has four goals and two assists to his name this season. Hayao got an assist in his last national assignment against Kyrgyzstan. On top of that, he had amazing match stats — 100% successful dribbles, 99 touches, and a 94% pass accuracy rate.

What the Signing Means for Wolves

Although he does not link up with Wolves until the summer, Hayao is a clear indication of what manager Bruno Lage plans for the future. He is looking to build a side that can go toe-to-toe with the big side. A midfielder in the form of Hayao, with physicality and technique, is a big block in that construction.

Additionally, he adds much-needed depth to a squad that is looking to be part of European competition next season. His presence will benefit fellow midfielders Ruben Neves and Hwang Hee-Chan greatly.

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