Aston Villa Women have announced the signing of Japanese striker Mana Iwabuchi.
She arrives following a three year spell in her home nation with INAC Kobe Leonessa and she arrives at the Banks’ Stadium with a huge reputation and expectation. Villa have struggled for goals all season, with their top scorer being midfielder Ramona Petzelberger with just three goals.
It is hoped that Iwabuchi will take the heat off Shania Hayles and Stine Larsen in terms of scoring goals, but it may spell more trouble for Diana Silva who is yet to score in claret and blue and has dropped out of the squad in recent games.
Iwabuchi made her first team debut for Japanese side Nippon TV Beleza in 2007 when she was aged just 14. She won the Best Young Player award aged 15 and was in the Team of the Year when she was 18. Despite being a teenager for her entire time at the club, Iwabuchi managed to grab 30 goals in 64 games in the L.League.
Her impressive form at such an early age caught the attention of German second tier outfit Hoffenheim, where she went on to form a crucial part of the team that got the side promoted to the Frauen-Bundesliga for the first time. She even scored the side’s first goal in the top flight and finished her two year spell in Hoffenheim with ten goals in 31 league games.
Iwabuchi’s next move saw her move up the German pecking order with a move to Bayern Munich, where she only scored five goals in an injury-hit spell in Bavaria. She terminated her contract in 2017 to return to Japan.
The now 27-year-old has been a feature of the Japanese national team since 2010 and is the current captain of her country. She has scored prolifically on the international stage, netting 29 goals in 72 games for Japan.
A wealth of expectation
Iwabuchi joins a struggling Villa team having been dubbed ‘the female Maradona’ by some. She has won nine major honours at club level alongside a World Cup winners medal in 2011 and finishing runners-up at the 2015 tournament.
Villa manager Gemma Davies has expressed her delight with her new signing:
“We are exceptionally excited that a player of Mana’s calibre will be joining us in January. Not only will she bring a wealth of experience to the squad, but she will also add a different dimension to our attacking play.”
The diminutive striker will wear the number 20 shirt at Villa.