SERIE A

Milan hail Honda but his future’s still up in the air

AC Milan praised the model professionalism of Keisuke Honda although doubts remain over whether the midfielder will extend his contract at the club.

Milan hail Honda but his future’s still up in the air
GIUSEPPE CACACE AFP

AC Milan have praised the model professionalism of Keisuke Honda although doubts remain over whether the Japan midfielder will extend his contract at the club beyond 2017.

A string of solid performances for Milan in recent months has underlined Honda's value to the struggling Serie A giants as they battle to qualify for a place in Europe next year. But the 29-year-old's future in Italy remains up in the air, with reports Honda wants to extend his business of children's football schools in Japan to the United States.

Japan international Honda's deal at Milan expires in June 2017 and the club insist they are focusing first on the players whose deals with the club expire in the coming months.

“There is no rush to renew,” Milan CEO Adriano Galliani told the club's website. “It's rare that Milan renew a contract a long time before it expires. So it's not the moment to talk about Honda's contract.”

Honda travelled to California last December as he reportedly pursues his dream of extending his football school business to the States, telling Fox Sports: “I wasn't talented when I was young. I had huge dreams to play for AC Milan and for big clubs in the world when I was young. I believe that most children can reach their goals if they train with our philosophy, with our training programs.”

But Galliani hinted Honda, who signed for Milan in 2013, could yet remain with the club beyond his existing deal. “Honda has never asked to leave Milan. He is happy in the city of Milan and at the club. I guarantee it,” he said. “Forget everything that is written in the Italian papers. A month ago I met up with Keisuke's brother, who is his agent, and there are no problems. We are very happy with him. He is a model professional. The Japanese are like that. They are soldiers, they are precise, punctual, professional. They always give 100%. No one at the club has a bad word to say about him. He may play one match well and another one not as well, because it's hard to always be at your best over the course of the season, but you can rest assured he will always give his all.”

However Milan are now set to miss out on the Champions League for the third consecutive season, and Honda could look for a fresh challenge elsewhere. Ahead of Sunday's trip to Atalanta, Milan sit in sixth place, 21 points points behind leaders Juventus and 11 points behind Roma, who occupy  the third and last Champions League qualifying place. Realistically, Sinisa Mihajlovic's men are now focusing on qualifying for next season's Europa League but are still six points behind direct rivals Fiorentina and Inter Milan.