The top-flights of England and Japan – S.League stars that made it outside of Southeast Asia
The Japanese forward spent one season in the S.League when he arrived as part of the Albirex Niigata (S) squad in 2011, having spent the previous four years appearing for top-flight Japanese side Yokohama F. Marinos.
The then 23-year-old scored 10 goals in 34 appearances in all competitions, though he was outshone by the likes of Shotaro Ihata, Tatsuro Inui and Bruno Castanheira as the White Swans finished fourth.
Better things were in store though, first with a move to Latvian top flight outfit FB Gulbene the following season. A remarkable 11 goals in his first 16 games for the club saw him earn a move to division rival FK Ventspils in mid-season.
While Gulbene eventually finished bottom, Saito hit six goals in 12 games to finish as the Virsliga’s second top scorer with 15 goals, just three behind the winner. Ventspils ended in third place and secured a spot in Europa League qualifying, where Saito played two times.
Another move quickly beckoned as Russian second-tier side FC Ufa, which was formed only in 2010, snapped him up in February 2013. Saito spent one and a half seasons there, with the club winning promotion in the second one, but he only started three out of the 10 games he featured in and scored just once.
Saito sought another change of surroundings in 2014, this time with FC Slutsk in Belarus’ top flight, banging in a credible eight goals in 18 games as they finished ninth.
He was not retained, however, and spent 14 months as a free agent before heading back to Latvia this February as FC Riga picked him up. With three goals in six games, it looks like the well-travelled Saito can revive his career in familiar surroundings.