After leaving Leicester City at the end of last last season, Shinji Okazaki has finally found himself a new club, signing with Malaga CF.
Champion of the #PremierLeague , three times in the World Cup and the first Japanese player in our history... ⚽️@okazakiofficial IS NOW BLUE AND WHITE!! Yōkoso! @LaLigaEN @LaLigaJP— Málaga CF English (@MalagaCF_en) July 30, 2019
➡️https://t.co/8a35ywNlBD#Official #Welcome pic.twitter.com/i1oWKHxOAZ
While he was here for just four years, Shinji was immediately taken in by the fans and left as a real favourite of many, so now feels like a good time to take a look back and remember the good times we had with Shinji.
As if you couldn’t tell from the constant smile on his face, the good feeling was definitely mutual.
The thing that stands out most from his performances as a Fox was the constant, high intensity, energetic output that went into every single performance.
He never failed to put everything he had into a performance, often so successfully that he would need to be substituted after 60 minutes. It absolutely encapsulated the style of the team at the time: chasing down every opportunity, outworking every opponent and always getting the most of the themselves.
His energetic style also bled through into his...interesting warm-ups.
Shinji Okazaki went full Brent in his warm up on Saturday pic.twitter.com/uMhvRrFaRP— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) September 4, 2018
The Japan international arrived having been primarily a goal scorer for his country and for his previous team Mainz, but never got the opportunity he might have wanted to take that role here.
Still, it would be remiss to forget that among the hard work and team-centric effort, he absolutely managed to conjure some moments of magic. None more so than this winner against Newcastle in their first game under Rafa Benitez.
That goal, and a string of great performances either side of it were part of something very special, as the Foxes went on to win the Premier League.
Every player involved, even Nathan Dyer, will hold a special place in my memories, but there were few I enjoyed watching lift the trophy as much as this man.
Leicester’s wild ride didn’t end there. While two strikers came in for record transfer fees that summer, Shinji still featured through the following Champions League campaign.
His biggest highlight came in the final home group game against Club Brugge. Okazaki bagged his first Champions League goal in the fourth minute and the Foxes never looked back, going on to secure their place in the knockout rounds.
He never seemed very keen to talk in front of the camera, but whenever he was on the pitch, it was clear that he having a great time, absolutely in his element.
The clear joy on his face was always infectious; whether you were a fan or a teammate, how could you watch him play and not have a good time? It’s easy to see why he won the fans over so quickly, and it’s hard to disagree with Darren Gough of Talksport who, like all of us, would love to go for a beer with our Shinji.
“He’s 33, fit as a fiddle, a great bloke.”— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) April 16, 2019
“If I could go for a pint with any player, it would be Okazaki. He’s a diamond.”
“People talk about Kante and Vardy, but Okazaki was a big part of it.” @DGoughie pays tribute to Shinji Okazaki as he leaves #LCFC pic.twitter.com/rX5vJ3U58f