Tadanari Lee is a Japanese striker who was born in Nishitokyo, Tokyo on December 19th 1985. Lee represented South Korea at youth level, qualifying through his parents, although he was never fully accepted among his teammates, due to his Japanese background. He started his club career with FC Tokyo, but failed to make a first team appearance before joining Kashiwa Reysol in 2005. Lee made his Reysol debut the same year, but didn't become a regular at the club until after they were relegated to J League Division 2. He helped the club bounce back and win promotion in 2006, with 8 goals from 31 matches. Lee found the step up in quality the following season no issue whatsoever, netting a respectable 10 from 30. The goals dried up over the next few years, with Lee suffering a dip in form. He represented Japan at the 2008 Olympics.
Lee signed for Sanfrecce Hiroshima in 2009. A year later he reignited his career, lighting up the J League with a string of exciting performances. Lee possesses great technique and dribbling skills, but is also physically strong and decent in the air. He caught the eye of Japan's national team manager Alberto Zaccheroni, after scoring 11 goals from 31 games in 2010. Lee made his international debut on January 9th 2011 against Jordan. He was part of Zaccheroni's 2011 Asia Cup squad, and wrote himself into Japanese folklore on 29th January 2011, by scoring the winning goal in extra time in the final against Australia with a beautiful volley. Lee continued to perform well domestically too, with 15 goals for Sanfrecce in 2011.
In January 2012 Lee agreed a deal to sign for Southampton. Saints boss Nigel Adkins had said the player had caught his eye at the Asia Cup last year. He had highlighted Lee's goal against Australia to the rest of the squad as an example of great technique. According to FIFA's own website, the player agreed to sign a three and a half year deal, with a weekly wage of approximately £15,000, rising to £23,000 per week if Saints gain promotion. On 11th January 2012 it was announced Lee's work permit had been approved.
Tadanari Lee's Asia Cup final goal
Lee in action for Sanfrecce Hiroshima- Solo run and chip
Lee looked slightly raw on his debut at Millwall on January 28th 2012. The Japanese livewire soon settled in and made a real impact at St Marys. He scored the goal of the season against Derby on 18th February, angling a shot into the top corner. A week later he put in a superb display at Watford. His movement was incredible at Vicarage Road, in a 3-0 Saints win. Lee lined up against Leeds on 3rd March just days after competing in the Far East for Japan. He looked tired, but still provided the assist for Rickie Lambert in a 1-0 victory at Elland Road. Sadly Lee's 2011/12 season would come to a premature end not long after due to injury.