Sampdoria's Maya Yoshida remains focused on the future and not the past as Serie A returns

At the age of 31, Maya Yoshida has already achieved a lot in his career.

He featured prominently for Southampton in the English Premier League for many campaigns. He appeared at two FIFA World Cups and won the AFC Asian Cup with Japan's national team when he was just 22.

Yet Yoshida is a man who remains very much focused on what more he can still achieve -- having joined Italian side Sampdoria on loan in January -- rather than rest on his past accomplishments.

"Every day is my best time," Yoshida told ESPN in an exclusive interview. "I try to beat everyday, so I don't look back on the past too much. ... The most important thing is what I will make [of my career] from now on so, to be honest, I don't really care too much about my past.

For someone who does not like to look back, there can be no denying his past influenced the footballer he turned out to be.

Yoshida left home at 12 years old to pursue his career when he joined the youth team of Nagoya Grampus.

"From that moment, I had to do everything by myself," the Nagasaki native explained. "Having to have that kind of independence made me an adult much quicker than someone else of the same age, and I think that helped me a lot."

That ability to be self-reliant served Yoshida well when he got his big European break at 22 with Dutch side VVV-Venlo. Southampton soon followed and came calling three years later in the summer of 2012.

But having struggled for the first team this season, Yoshida jumped at the opportunity when Sampdoria came calling during the winter transfer window. While the coronavirus pandemic brought an abrupt halt to his start to life in Serie A after just one appearance, he is raring to resume the campaign when Sampdoria take on Inter Milan on Sunday.

The immediate target for Yoshida is to help Sampdoria, who currently lie in 16th place, stave off relegation.

"I have to contribute to my current club and convince the people who had doubts - that's my main target right now," Yoshida said.

He has extra motivation to impress as he is set to become a free agent once his current contract with Southampton expires. Sampdoria reportedly have the option to extend his deal to the end of the 2020-21 season.

"I don't know what the future holds," Yoshida added. "Many people ask me if I will return to the J.League one day. It depends on the offer, on the timing, on the occasion ... everything is possible."

With many targets still in front of him Yoshida wants to show he is still looking forward.

"But I'm enjoying the new challenge right now and one thing is clear: I want to play in Europe for as long as possible," Yoshida said. "At the same time, I want to help make new history for Japanese football."