From Moscow to Milan: Victory marquee Honda's road to stardom

Melbourne Victory have completed one of the biggest signings in Hyundai A-League history with their acquisition of Keisuke Honda.

Caltex Socceroos fans will be familiar with the man who has been at the heart of Australia's brilliant battles with Japan for the last decade.

But as he enters international retirement, the ex-AC Milan playmaker has turned his attention to starring in Australian football.

MARQUEE SIGNING: Honda to light up Hyundai A-League as Victory land mega marquee
HOW IT UNFOLDED: Relive the announcement from our live ticker
READ MORE: How will Melbourne Victory accommodate their new Japanese superstar?
ADP TO 'GOD' HIMSELF: History of Hyundai A-League's international marquees
WHEN AND WHERE: How and when to watch Honda play this season
#WELCOMEHONDA: How social media reacted to the Honda announcement

Here's a look at how the 32-year-old rose to fame.

Humble beginnings

Honda has described how his burning ambition to become a footballer was sparked at the age of six when his father showed him a video tape of Pele.

He became inspired to emulate the Brazil great's success in order to support his family, which "didn't have much".

After graduating high school, Honda left his hometown of Osaka to join Nagoya Grampus, where he quickly became established in the first-team.

Eye-catching displays in the J.League earned the left-footer a move to Europe with VVV-Venlo, although it appeared to be a wrong turn when his new club were relegated from the Eredivisie.

The setback ultimately proved a blessing for Honda, however, as he shone with 16 goals in the second tier, putting him on the radar of Russian giants CSKA Moscow.

Keisuke Honda Venlo
Honda worked his way up from the second tier of Dutch football.

FIFA World Cup ace

Six months into a four-year contract in Russia, Honda had clubs clamouring for his signature following a breakout 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The silky star made his tournament debut one to remember with the only goal in a 1-0 win against Cameroon.

An even better performance was to follow in the 3-1 victory over Denmark.

Honda gave his side the lead with a wicked free-kick that deceived future Melbourne City goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, before laying on the winner for Shinji Okazaki with a dazzling turn and no-look pass.

With two man-of-the-match awards in the bag, Japanese football had found its heir to Hidetoshi Nakata.

Trailblazing in Milan

Having firmly established himself as a player of top European pedigree, Honda realised his "destiny" with a dream move to AC Milan in January 2014.

He was granted the number 10 shirt upon his arrival at San Siro, becoming the first the first Japanese player to represent one of Italy's most famous clubs.

Over 80 league appearances were racked over the course of the next three and a half years as Honda fulfilled a Serie A ambition he had held from the age of 12.

His final appearance for the club came away to Cagliari in May 2017 as a surprise move to Mexican outfit Pachuca beckoned.

Pogba and Honda
Paul Pogba was among a star-studded cast of opponents in Italy.

A giant in Japan

Honda has signed off from international football as one of his country's all-time greats.

Since debuting as a 22-year-old in June 2008, the attacking midfielder has netted an impressive 37 goals - only three players have scored more for Samurai Blue.

His 98 caps also rank him level with Shunsuke Nakamura in eighth place on Japan's list of appearances.

And with his crucial equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Senegal less than a month ago, the ex-Gamba Osaka youth teamer etched his name into history as the first Japanese player to score at three FIFA World Cups.

Success has come at contintental level, too: Honda helped himself to hero status by leading the way at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, where he was named Most Valuable Player.

Honda Belgium
Russia 2018 was the scene of Honda's fourth and final FIFA World Cup goal.