The big news in Japanese football this morning is that Spanish side Espanola intends to loan Japanese NT star Shunsuke Nakamura (31) to a J.League club, but only until the summer in what could be essentially be a 3-month loan worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Transferred last summer to Espanola from Celtic in a major deal that saw Japan's most visible player in Europe step foot onto the continent, Nakamura has been unable to break through with the team after 6 months of league play in part due to a language barrier, inability to get fit, and various injuries. With the World Cup about five months away, Nakamura's main objective is to get back onto the field and prove his worth to Okada. This is especially true as strong “leader”-type players like Kashima's Ogasasawa have begun making appearances on the NT in Nakamura's absence.
According to Sponichi Annex, should this transfer go through Espanola would likely cancel a planned summer tour of Japan that would have netted nearly half a million Euros ($700,000) in revenue. As a result, the team would likely seek to recover some of that lost revenue in what would be a relatively high transfer fee.
Yokohama F. Marinos (the team Nakamura grew up playing with and what was thought to be his destination after Celtic) is in the lead to acquire the left-footed midfielder, but Kashima, Urawa, Gamba Osaka, and FC Tokyo are also named in the press as potential candidates.
Among fans, the general sentiment seems to be negative, with most criticism focusing on Nakamura's fitness and strength especially compared with Kajiyama (maybe I just have blinders on but I think we could do with less Kajiyama, yet I digress) and others in Tokyo's lineup. Another point on which I tend to agree on is that if Tokyo has the money to blow on a 3-month romp with an aging star arguably passing his prime, that money should instead be spent on a striker.
All involved parties apparently hope that the deal will go through in time for Nakamura to take the field on J.League's Opening Day. Yet given that our first match is against Yokohama, it does appear likely that one way or the other Nakamura will step foot on Ajinomoto Stadium's pitch.
In NT news, Sota Hirayama is likely to start for Japan in tonight's match versus Hong Kong. Japan has played 180 scoreless minutes, with Saturday's game against China ending in a shower of boos for the NT. Calls have been growing for Hirayama to start rather than appear as a mid-game substitution, and with Shimizu's Okazaki likely out of the match with a knee injury it appears that #20 may take the field at 7PM. Meanwhile, former NT coach Philippe Troussier has criticized Hirayama for “trying too hard to control the game,” claiming that “[Hirayama] would be more effective with a simpler way of attacking.” Troussier, who let the NT from 1998 through the '02 World Cup, further stated that Hirayama “…has potential, but isn't at the top level yet.”