REUTERS - Makoto Hasebe has risked straining his relationship with Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt by joining up with the Japan squad ahead of Thursday's World Cup qualifying match against the United Arab Emirates.
The 33-year-old, who has been Japan captain since 2010, arrived in Al Ain late on Sunday despite his club saying he needed an operation on a knee injury sustained in a 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich on March 11.
"He arrived in Al Ain last night," said team spokesman Hiroshi Tada. "Now he is going to talk to our coach and he will decide if he will remain in Al Ain with our team or if he will go. Maybe today we will decide."
Hasebe has been a key figure for Japan for much of the last decade, helping the team win the 2011 Asian Cup and qualify for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
The former Urawa Red Diamonds midfielder, who has made more Bundesliga appearances than any other Japanese player, was injured when he collided with a post against Bayern.
He was taken to hospital after the game to have a wound on his left shin stitched but Frankfurt later said Hasebe subsequently broke down in training and would require an operation. No date was given for his expected return.
"Hasebe is a very strong captain for us," said Halilhodzic when he announced his squad last week. "Having a team without him in it is unthinkable."
Japan are second in Group B of Asia's qualifying tournament for Russia 2018, level on points with Saudi Arabia and just one ahead of third-placed Australia and the UAE. Only the top two teams are guaranteed to qualify for the finals.
Halilhodzic, who took over as coach following Javier Aguirre's departure in early 2015, has been under pressure following several unconvincing displays by Japan, who are seeking their sixth straight appearance at the World Cup.
The Japanese take on the UAE on Thursday before returning home to face last-placed Thailand on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Michael Church in Sydney, Editing by Peter Rutherford)