SUITA, OSAKA PREF. – Gamba Osaka manager Kenta Hasegawa held back the emotions on Friday in his first comments a night after the J. League club announced he would leave at season’s end.
“All I can do is do what I’m told by the club,” Hasegawa said in Gamba’s clubhouse following training. “I want us to be united to the very end and try to win as many titles as we can.”
Hasegawa said the team relayed its decision to him on Monday. Since arriving in Osaka in 2013, when he lifted Gamba out of J2, the former national team forward helped the former Asian champions win the Japanese treble the following season and retain the Emperor’s Cup in 2015.
This season, Gamba are seventh in the league with 10 games remaining, 13 points off the pace of the Kashima Antlers, and have advanced to the league cup semifinals and the Emperor’s Cup round of 16.
Gamba players are hoping to repay Hasegawa for the success he brought by sending him out on a winning note.
“What the manager has achieved here, the legacy he’s leaving behind, is huge,” captain and Japan centurion Yasuhito Endo said. “Us players, we just have to stay focused each and every game.”
Added striker Shu Kurata, “We want to end the season with a title in hand.”
Gamba president Takashi Yamauchi was convinced Hasegawa’s men would not be distracted by the club’s decision to announce a coaching change with three months of the campaign left to play.
Hasegawa’s successor is widely being tipped to be former Japan captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, who is currently managing Gamba’s under-23 side in J3.
Yamauchi said Miyamoto’s potential promotion would have to be handled with care.
“We’ve got to take the necessary steps and create the right environment for him before we move forward to that,” Yamauchi said.