Zaccheroni says Honda can succeed with Milan


Former AC Milan manager and Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni tipped Keisuke Honda to succeed with the seven-time European champions on Thursday, saying the midfielder has what it takes to cut it at the Serie A club.

Milan announced the signing of 27-year-old Honda on their official website Wednesday on a free transfer from CSKA Moscow. He will be the first Japanese to play for the 18-time Scudetto winners.

According to Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani, Honda’s contract will start from Jan. 3, and that he could make his debut in the storied black-and-red as early as Jan. 6 at home to Atalanta or away at Sassuolo on Jan. 12.

Zaccheroni managed the Rossoneri from 1998 to 2001, and is convinced his left-footed playmaker, who helped Japan qualify for a fifth consecutive World Cup, can be a big hit.

“Honda has the physical strength, the technique and the mentality to more than succeed in the Serie A at Milan,” Zaccheroni said of Honda, who returned to Japan Thursday morning without speaking to the media.

“You need a strong personality to make it at Milan, and Keisuke has that on top of all the other tools you need to have, like the physicality and skill.”

“When (Shinji) Kagawa joined Manchester United, I remember telling him that he was only getting started and signing with them was not his goal.”

“I told Kagawa that only when you play on a consistent basis are you a true big-club player, and I plan on saying something similar to Honda.”

“It won’t be easy to win a place in Milan’s first team, and he’s been handed the No. 10 which is a sign of the expectations placed upon him. But Keisuke can bear the responsibility.”

Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri, whose side have qualified for the Champions League last 16, touted Honda’s ability but urged him to fit in fast.

“Honda is a very skillful player and he can be useful, but he needs to settle in straightaway,” Allegri said through the team’s website.

Honda’s move to Milan had long been rumored, and he played his last game for CSKA in the Champions League on Tuesday, a 2-1 defeat to Plzen.

Honda began his career with the J. League’s Nagoya Grampus in 2005 before moving to VVV Venlo three years later, helping the Dutch side win promotion to the top flight as captain before signing with CSKA in 2010.

He has 52 caps for Japan with 20 goals, two of them coming at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.