TOULOUSE: Japan defender Gen Shoji has already endured a bruising experience against one global superstar in Cristiano Ronaldo but hopes that experience will work in his favour when he confronts another in the shape of French World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe on Sunday.
Shoji gets his chance to shut out Mbappe, one of football's hottest properties, when his Toulouse team take on mighty Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1.
The 26-year-old, who arrived in France in the winter transfer window, came off worse when Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick in a 4-2 win for Real Madrid over Kashima Antlers at the 2016 World Club Cup.
"With my Japanese club, we tried to stop Ronaldo collectively. In France, when we defend, I feel as if the individual duel is more important so I will have to adapt the way I do things against Mbappe and the others," said Shoji. "To compare Ronaldo and Mbappe, I will have to have played both of them. I should have a better idea after the game but it will be complicated."
Shoji, a native of Kobe, left Kashima Antlers — his only previous club — after 11 years and has helped Toulouse to a respectable mid-table place in Ligue 1.
"I wanted to have new experiences," said Japanese international Shoji who admitted he has had to quickly adapt to a vastly different culture in France. "You have to get out of your shyness. In Japan, if you are a little reserved someone will come to you; here, if you don't make the effort, no one will come to you."
To help him integrate in La Ville Rose (The Pink City), Toulouse have drafted in Japanese compatriot Toru Ota, who has played in the women's teams at Lyon and PSG.
She interprets for Shoji in the dressing room and translates tactical tips being passed on to the pitch from the bench. A French teacher is also in the process of being hired.