I half spit up my breakfast when the I saw the news via twitter this morning, as it came completely out of the blue. The sports newspapers, including of course Tokyo Chunichi Sports (link is in Japanese), reported that the club had decided to cancel the loan contract of winger/striker Pedro Junior. And as I type this, the club has posted confirmation of his departure, with a comment from the man himself expressing his regret at not being able to contribute more to the team due to his various injuries.
Before I saw the club's report, my initial reaction to the news was that it might've been a disciplinary issue. The man has a reputation after all. I went as far as asking Japanese football expert, and voice of Gamba Osaka for ACL games, Alan Gibson, of JSoccer.com and the soon to be released JSoccer Magazine (contact him via twitter at @JSoccerMagazine for details on how to purchase) about Pedro's departure from the Kansai club in the early stages of last season. Alan replied very promptly, telling me about PJ's hissy fit after being substituted at home against Niigata last March 20, but if we take the club and player's statements as sincere and his departure is injury-related, lets look bigger picture with three important questions:
1. How does Pedro Junior's departure affect the squad?
He'd only made two substitute appearances for us and hadn't featured for six weeks since his impressive cameo in the away derby, so right now it appears we aren't affected much at all, but we're losing a game-changer and a pretty potent attacking force (15 goals in just 45 J1 appearances, don't forget) who could've had a massive impact on our promotion run in the mid-to-late stages of the season.
It also places even more importance on Naohiro Ishikawa's knees, as if Nao were to suffer another setback, we'd be lacking a proven impact player on the flanks.
2. Will we be able to sign another foreign player?
You'd like to think the club weighed up the severity of Pedro's injury, decided he wouldn't be able to help much at all this season, and cut the cord, with another name or names in mind to replace him. But...this is the management of FC Tokyo we're talking about here... We never replaced Paulo Wanchope in 2007... We never replaced Cabore in 2009 (though it was September when he left)... We stuck with Ricardinho, our only non-Asian foreign player last season...
The club did the right thing by signing three Brazilians for this season, we've just been terribly unlucky that two of them have succumbed to injury. Maybe I'll give Jade North a ring and see if he can get Harry Kewell on the phone and talk him into coming over.
3. Why are the club so
As I mentioned earlier, it was six weeks ago that Pedro made his last appearance for us. Those of us who don't go to Kodaira everyday were surprised to see him miss out on the squad for the next game, at home against Toyama. Where was he? Turns out he was injured. Did we find out from the club? No. Did we hear jot about his injury from the club, from the day of the derby until yesterday? No, we did not. Thats why supporters were so surprised when the news of his departure broke today.
Just one of the many things that frustrates me about the way the club is run, is their selective release of news related to the status of the playing squad. On the same topic, North was missing from the squad due to injury for the Kumamoto game after his impressive debut against Ehime two weekends ago. He also wasn't involved in yesterday's training match against Sony Sendai. Have we heard anything about his injury? If you're following the pattern here, you've already guessed the answer (It's no, by the way).
They put enough crap about where to see Dorompa, "Event" information (hey, its Nantoka Day!) and access to Aji Sta (even though we've all been there 200 times) in the "Headline News" section of the club website, you'd think they might be able to take five minutes to tell us about a player being injured!
OK, that got very ranty by the end there. Apologies. My Tokushima Preview will be up later tonight or by lunchtime tomorrow.
Sayonara Pedro Junior, we hardly knew ye.