Soccer / J. League

Kiyotake targets title on return to Cerezo

Kyodo

Hiroshi Kiyotake hopes the lessons he learned in Europe will help him win a title with Cerezo Osaka as the Japan midfielder returns to the J. League after a 4½-year absence.

“I learned the mentality and attitude to fight,” Kiyotake said Sunday, a day after joining Cerezo for preseason training camp. “I had to take a hard look at myself as a footballer, and that may have been the best thing to happen to me.

“I want to play hard, even in training. I want to show by example and not by words.”

The 27-year-old rejoins Cerezo from La Liga’s Sevilla on a full transfer.

Kiyotake left Cerezo in the summer of 2012 for the Bundesliga, where he had productive spells at Nuremburg and Hannover — 17 goals in 117 games combined — before signing with Sevilla for the current European season.

Cerezo are back in J1 after two seasons in the second division, and Kiyotake wants to help them capture their first piece of silverware.

“I thought it wasn’t a bad idea to return to Japan at an age when I’m still at the top of my game. If I was going to come back to Japan, it was going to be with Cerezo,” he said.

“Cerezo will become bigger and stronger by winning a title. I’m prepared to make a 100 percent commitment so we can achieve that,” Kiyotake said.

“It feels strange, but I’m really happy. It was only after I moved to Cerezo in 2010 that I learned the pleasure and joy of playing soccer. I want to play entertaining football again.”

Kiyotake knows he will be under the constant gaze of Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic as the playmaker looks to cement his place in the first team after coming on strong in the World Cup qualifiers in October and November.

“I want to win a spot in the starting lineup and definitely want to play in the season opener (against Jubilo Iwata on Feb. 25),” Kiyotake said. “If I keep producing in the J. League, I will continue to be picked. I’m sure Halilhodzic will be watching.”

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