• Kyodo

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Striker Sota Hirayama has left SC Heracles Almelo just three weeks into his second season in the Netherlands, the Dutch top-division club said Tuesday.

Hirayama, who scored eight goals in 31 league matches for Heracles last season, is expected to look to join a J. League team, as the transfer market in European soccer was closed a week ago.

Heracles parted company with Hirayama after the 21-year-old Athens Olympic player gained weight. Fitness problems haunted him throughout the close season as well as early in the new season.

Hirayama was substituted after 65 minutes in a 3-0 home win over FC Twente in Heracles’ opening match of the season on Aug. 20 and has since made limited appearances in their competitive matches.

A Heracles official late last month suggested ditching Hirayama, saying he was not working hard enough and could leave the team.

The lanky player, who twice represented Japan at the World Youth Championship, led Kunimi high school of Nagasaki Prefecture to the 2004 national championship and opted to play college soccer with Tsukuba University after turning down offers from J. League clubs.

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