Mana Iwabuchi is a Japanese professional footballer who plays for Aston Villa Women and the Japan national women's football team. In the past, she has represented Nippon TV Beleza, Hoffenheim, Bayern Munich and INAC Kobe Leonessa.
Iwabuchi was part of the Japan team which won the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup and has also won several honours at club level. She lifted the Nadeshiko League with Nippon TV Beleza in 2007, 2008 and 2010. Then, she went on to claim the Frauen Bundesliga in 2014/15 and 2015/16 with Bayern Munich.
Early career with Nippon TV Beleza
Iwabuchi made her debut in the Nadeshiko League for Nippon TV Beleza on October 21, 2007. At the time, she was only 14 years of age. In 2008, she won the league's Young Player of the Year award.
In 2007, Nippon TV Beleza beat Tasaki Perule FC to the league title by a solitary point. In 2008, they retained their crown, seeing off runners-up INAC Leonessa by a comfortable margin of eight points.
Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies beat them to the title in 2009, but Beleza reclaimed the crown in 2010.
During her time with Nippon TV Beleza, Iwabuchi also won the 2007, 2010 and 2012 Nadeshiko League Cup, as well as the Empress's Cup in 2008 and 2009.
She left for Hoffenheim in the 2. Bundesliga in November 2012.
German move and promotion with Hoffenheim
On 17 March 2013, Iwabuchi made her debut for Hoffenheim, coming on as a substitute in a 6-2 thrashing of SV Bardenbach. Two weeks later, she scored her first goal for the club in a 3-2 win over 1. FFC Niederkirchen.
Iwabuchi's haul in the 2012/13 season of four goals in nine appearances was helpful as Hoffenheim won the Southern division and were promoted to the Bundesliga.
She opened her club's Frauen-Bundesliga account with a goal in the 1-0 win over VfL Sindelfingen and finished the season with six goals in 21 matches in the league. Hoffenheim finished the season ninth in the standings, avoiding relegation by a margin of six points.
In June 2014, Iwabuchi left Hoffenheim for Bayern Munich, who were looking to reel in Wolfsburg, the dominant force in German women's football.
Bayern switch delivers more silverware
Iwabuchi - nicknamed Manadona, a nod to Argentina great Diego Maradona - netted three times in 13 Frauen-Bundesliga matches for Bayern Munich in her debut season for the club. Bayern edged Wolfsburg to the 2014/15 league title by a single point.
In the 2015/16 season, Bayern strolled to the title by 10 points, but Iwabuchi's involvement in the team decreased as she made only eight appearances, scoring two goals. Her minutes were less than half (425) that of the previous campaign (949).
In the 2016/17 season, Iwabuchi made only three league appearances and spent 132 minutes on the pitch as Bayern Munich lost their title to Wolfsburg.
In March 2017, Iwabuchi announced that she was leaving Bayern Munich to return to Japan and concentrate on recovering from injuries.
"I've decided to start from scratch in Japan with my future in mind," Iwabuchi wrote on her blog. "I really like this team and have a tremendous desire to continue here. But I've been injured or doing rehab for almost two of the three seasons."
Fortunately for Iwabuchi, by her account, Bayern were sympathetic to her situation.
"I only have gratitude for the club for understanding my decision... I'll never forget winning back-to-back titles with the best team-mates," she added.
"For now, I want a fit body more than Champions League titles, the domestic league or experience in Germany. The first thing is to heal my injury... I'll recover and definitely return to the pitch."
Iwabuchi signed for INAC Kobe Leonessa in June 2017. During her time with the club, they regularly competed for the league title, but failed to win it.
Off to England with Aston Villa
Iwabuchi was announced as an Aston Villa player in December 2020.
"We are exceptionally excited that a player of Mana's calibre will be joining us in January," said Villa head coach Gemma Davies.
"Not only will she bring a wealth of experience to the squad, but she will also add a different dimension to our attacking play. She is a very technical player that thrives in tight spaces and we cannot wait to see her continue to develop at Aston Villa."
Club sporting director Eniola Aluko added: "We are thrilled that Mana will be joining Aston Villa Women in January. Mana is an exciting and creative goalscorer who will bring World Cup-winning experience to the club.
"I am delighted Mana has chosen to join Aston Villa Women to drive us forward in our Barclays FA Women's Super League journey, whilst also choosing our elite environment to prepare for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics."
Iwabuchi scored her first WSL goal for Villa in a 2-2 draw with Reading on January 23, 2021 and then netted another in a 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on February 6.
Her signing has been hailed as a major achievement not only for Aston Villa, but also for the FA Women's Super League, which is competing to be among the best leagues in women's football worldwide.
World Cup glory with Japan
At the age of 15, Iwabuchi made her debut for the Japan U-17 national team in 2008, participating in the U-17 Women's World Cup in New Zealand that year.
Although Japan were beaten in the quarter-finals, Iwabuchi was the tournament's MVP and won the Adidas Golden Ball. She was also named Asian Young Footballer of the Year by the Asian Football Confederation in 2008.
Iwabuchi's senior national team career began in 2010 and she was part of the team which won the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.
She was also in the teams which finished second at the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2015 World Cup.