Ex-Leicester City midfielder Yuki Abe has hailed Shinji Okazaki’s contribution to the Foxes as their Premier League season draws to a fairy-tale climax, and says he is not surprised that the Japan striker has become a hit at King Power Stadium.
Leicester — 5,000-1 outsider for the title at the start of the season — visits Old Trafford on Sunday knowing that victory over Manchester United will make it the champion for the first time.
Okazaki has become a fan favorite for his outstanding work rate and energy, although he has admitted to his disappointment at having only scored six goals in all competitions so far, since joining Leicester from German side Mainz on a four-year deal worth a reported €10 million last summer.
But the 34-year-old Abe, who made 52 appearances for Leicester in the second-tier Championship between 2010 and 2012 before returning to Urawa Reds, says Okazaki’s contribution cannot be underestimated and that he should not be overly concerned about his goal tally.
“You can see he has lost none of the qualities he showed in the J. League and Germany,” Abe said in a recent interview with Sky Perfect TV.
“The fans over there (in England) applaud hard work and effort. He is a striker and obviously you are rated on how many goals you score but I don’t think he needs to be bothered about that.
“Other players score goals but when you think about the contribution he has made in the process . . . I reckon he joined an interesting team. He is playing constantly and I think he is a really good fit.”
Having battled relegation last season, a championship win for Leicester would be an achievement nobody saw coming, but Abe says Okazaki must not let the increasing pressure and higher expectations from the team get to him.
“There is more and more pressure and expectations but Oka (Okazaki) should not overthink things and just stick to his typical game. That’s the best thing to do,” Abe said.
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