Tsuneyasu Miyamoto’s time at Red Bull Salzburg may not have been as successful as he would have liked, but the former national team captain is determined to use the experience to benefit his new Vissel Kobe teammates.
Miyamoto left Gamba Osaka for Austria in December 2006 after spending the first 12 years of his career with the Kansai club. The center back had fulfilled his ambition of helping Gamba to its first J. League title in 2005, and felt the time was right to leave when Salzburg invited him to become part of its ambitious project to make an impact on the Champions League.
His time in Austria got off to a promising start with regular appearances under managers Giovanni Trapattoni and Lothar Matthaus, but injuries eventually took their toll.
Unable to force his way back into the starting lineup after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, Miyamoto returned to Japan at the start of this year to sign with Vissel, another club with grand designs of moving to a higher level.
The 32-year-old accepts his time abroad could have gone better, but insists it has left him in a position to share what he has learned with his new colleagues.
“The first year was good but the second year wasn’t so good for me,” he said. “I got injured and for the last six months I couldn’t play as well.
“But I got a lot of experience in Europe and that is something I can keep and pass on to my new teammates. They are not too young, but they don’t have enough experience. That’s my job — to teach them.”
Miyamoto’s calm leadership could prove vital for a Vissel side beginning the season in a state of flux. Key strikers Yoshito Okubo and Leandro have left the club, and there has also been a change of manager with Caio Junior taking over from Hiroshi Matsuda.
The comings and goings have given the Brazilian coach little time to stamp his own identity on a squad still getting used to the changes, but Miyamoto is impressed with what he has seen so far.
“It has only been 1 1/2 months, so I can’t say many things about him,” he said. “But I think he is a good coach and a motivator.
“He always says positive things and I think he can lead us in the right direction. It’s not easy for us but I think we have big potential to be there. I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to the season.”
While Miyamoto’s return will reacquaint Japanese fans with a familiar face when Kobe’s season begins on Sunday, seeing him take the field in a Vissel shirt may require more getting used to. With his identity so strongly tied to Gamba, he admits the feelings still run deep.
But Miyamoto is nothing if not the consummate professional, and insists his emotions will take a back seat as he resumes his J. League career elsewhere in Kansai.
“I played for Red Bull Salzburg, so I don’t think it is strange,” he said. “Of course Gamba is my club in my heart and it’s not easy to talk about it, but as a player I want to play.
“Vissel have many positives and the ability to be in a higher position. We have big ambitions, and the J. League is a very competitive league so we have the chance.”
Despite appearing at two World Cups and winning 71 caps, Miyamoto has not played for the national team since the 0-0 draw with Croatia at Germany 2006. Former manager Ivica Osim made Yuji Nakazawa and Marcus Tulio Tanaka the bedrock of his defense during his year and a half in charge, and current boss Takeshi Okada has seen no reason to think differently.
For his part, Miyamoto knows he must take things one step at a time before thinking about an international return, and insists his focus is solely on making his mark with Vissel.
“At first I have to think about my club,” he said. “That is the only thing I can say now.”