Harry Redknapp proclaimed him a Japanese 'David Beckham figure', but the goalkeeper couldn't keep out Grimsby
The Japanese were surprised the 34-year-old Jubilo Iwata goalkeeper was named in their nation's 23-man squad for South Africa, but not half as much as fans in Hampshire. In 2001 Portsmouth broke their transfer record to sign Yoshi Kawaguchi from Yokohama and their then director of football, Harry Redknapp, said the goalie was "a David Beckham figure" in his native land, but the manager, Graham Rix, was keen to stress that Pompey were not signing him "with a commercial aspect in mind". Hmm.
The Japanese media turned out in force to watch Kawaguchi play in the First Division and were in for a treat as he conceded his first goal in less than a minute. Teams such as Grimsby and Leyton Orient proceeded to knock 23 more past him in his next 11 games as he demonstrated such flappability and non-stick glove-work he might have been doing an early audition for a place in England's starting XI.
Eventually Rix could stand no more and the 42-yearold Dave "Lurch" Beasant replaced the Japanese. Despite his frailty, Kawaguchi remained hugely popular with Pompey fans thanks to a positive attitude to life in England as he wait for it praised the public transport system and the postal service.
Such diplomacy was not enough to rebuild his career on the south coast, however, and he was offloaded to the Danish club FC Nordsjaelland in 2003.