Soccer / J. League

Antlers announce Atsuto Uchida’s return from Germany

Kyodo

Kashima Antlers confirmed Wednesday that Japan defender Atsuto Uchida will transfer from Union Berlin, marking his return to the J. League after 7½ years in Germany.

The German second-division side announced a day earlier it had terminated with immediate effect Uchida’s contract, a deal the 29-year-old only signed in August.

Kashima, where Uchida started his professional career, did not disclose details of the deal but said he is scheduled to join his new teammates on Jan. 9.

“Ever since I moved to Schalke in 2010 there was always a part of me that wanted to play for Kashima again, and I’ve been rooting for Antlers in Germany,” Uchida said in a club statement.

“I believe I know how to behave as a player from a club that embraces tradition and what kind of attitude to bring to the game. I’ll give my best effort to help Kashima under our boss Go Oiwa, who was previously my teammate,” he said.

Union Berlin sporting director Helmut Schulte said the team did not want to stand in Uchida’s way.

“Unfortunately, Atsuto was unable to show us what potential he has and that is why we’ve accommodated his wish of returning home,” he said, according to the Bundesliga’s official website.

Uchida started his career with the Antlers in 2006 and helped the club win three straight league championships between 2007 and 2009. He was named to the J. League’s Best XI twice, in 2008 and 2009.

Uchida moved to Schalke in 2010 and spent seven years there before he signed with Union Berlin last summer. Capped 74 times by Japan, Uchida played 104 Bundesliga matches for Schalke.

He underwent surgery on his right knee in June 2015 and made just two league appearances for Union. He has since stepped up his recovery efforts in a bid to rejoin the national squad for the World Cup in Russia in June and July this year.

Uchida represented Japan at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and in Brazil in 2014.