YOKOHAMA – Jubilo Iwata have signed former Japan international and Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura from Yokohama F. Marinos, the J. League first-division sides announced Sunday.
The 38-year-old playmaker will continue to wear the No. 10 shirt at his new club Jubilo, who will be Nakamura’s second J. League team having only played for his boyhood club Yokohama in his 13 years in the league.
“In 2016 there have been lots of changes in the team. I’ve faced many things as captain, as a member of Marinos and a human being,” Nakamura said on Marinos’ website.
“In order to follow my soul, to face football sincerely until the very moment I hang up my boots and to do so with joy and pleasure more than anything else, I’ve reached this decision after anguished deliberation to leave Marinos.”
Nakamura was offered an annual wage worth ¥120 million by Marinos, but the dead-ball specialist has been unhappy with the influence stakeholder City Football Group has had on player reinforcement policies over the past year.
“My heart was set on retiring here, I never thought of leaving a year ago. I didn’t want to take off the No. 10 shirt I adored. (But) every day there were things I felt were wrong,” Nakamura told reporters in Yokohama. “I had to deal with them as captain but that in turn left me with less time to face football.
“I wanted to end (my career) in a way that leaves me no regret, fully burned out. When I thought of a place where I can face football properly, it wasn’t here. I had to choose a different path if I were to reach a goal that was good for me.”
Nakamura, who intends to end his playing career at 40, decided on the move despite an Iwata offer thought to be ¥40 million less than the one made by Marinos. He now leaves his hometown club without winning a league title.
“I vividly remember how warmly you welcomed me back when I returned in 2010,” Nakamura said on Marinos’ website, before recalling a banner from September 2013 that read ‘We want to win the league with Shunsuke.’
Marinos needed only one win from their last two games that autumn, but fumbled away the title to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
“It is really disappointing that I couldn’t share the joy of winning the championship with our supporters in 2013, but the banner was overwhelming, something I didn’t experience even at Celtic,” he said. “It’s etched deep in my heart and is something I cannot forget all my life.
“I’m grateful from my heart to every single person associated (with the club). I truly thank you.”
Marinos’ general manager Takao Toshishige expressed regret at the outcome and admitted that the team’s changes have not come without a cost.
“This is what shouldn’t have been allowed to happen,” Toshishige said. “Keeping him was a priority, but we have to respect his wishes and accept this.
“We have to honestly accept that there has been some disconnect and creaks. We absolutely cannot allow something like this to happen again.”
Sources last month revealed Iwata had made a multiyear offer for Nakamura. He and Iwata manager Hiroshi Nanami, also a left-footed playmaker during his playing days, have a strong bond as former teammates on the national side and both have worn Japan’s No. 10 shirt.
“He said the door is open after realizing the situation I was in. I want to believe that and just play soccer plain and simple,” Nakamura told reporters.
This season, Nakamura was limited to 19 league games by injuries to his left knee and both ankles, scoring four goals as Marinos placed 10th. Jubilo managed to survive relegation, finishing 13th out of 18, six points above the drop zone.
The rapid rejuvenation at Marinos under CFG has been met with a backlash and several other senior players could move on to pastures new, but Nakamura asked center-halves Yuji Nakazawa, 38, and Yuzo Kurihara, 33, to finish in style at the club.
“I want the club to allow those two veterans to contribute their last ounce of energy for Marinos,” said Nakamura, who played with Nakazawa at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. “Nakazawa is my brother in arms and it feels lonesome to be apart. He was a rival I could look up to.”
Nakamura joined Marinos in 1997 and moved to Italian club Reggina in 2002. He moved to Scottish powerhouse Celtic in 2005 where he won three straight Scottish Premier League titles, played for Spanish club Espanyol in 2009 before returning to Marinos in 2010.
Nakamura has scored 68 goals in 338 appearances in the J. League top flight and won the J. League Player of the Year award in 2000 and 2013.
He has been capped 98 times for Japan, scoring 24 goals.