|Exciting he isn't, but our captain was the J2 Player of the Season.|
That's him in the middle, pondering his future.
In my opinion Konno's the best player the club has ever had, and I include Amaral in that. I wouldn't be able to put up much of an argument to support my view, as I only saw "The King of Tokyo" play twice in the flesh, but for his unwavering consistency and calmness under pressure over eight seasons, first in central midfield and then at centre half, Konno would get my vote. But thats a discussion for another time, long-term supporters might already be fuming I had the audacity to rate someone over The King...
So firstly the good: at last night's J.League Awards Konno was honoured as J2's Most Exciting Player, a frankly ridiculous name for the Player of the Season Award. With one player nominated from each team, if we take the award by its 'true' title, there's no way Konno would've won, as he was up against far more 'exciting' talents like Chiba's Masaki Fukai, Ehime's Manabu Saito, Yoichiro Kakitani of Tokushima, Verdy's 16 goal striker Takuma Abe and Takumi Miyayoshi of Kyoto, to name just five.
Exciting has never been Konno's bag, but if it really is an Player of the Season/MVP-like award, then his only competition from this list is Tosu's centre forward Yohei Toyoda, whose 23 goals saw him finish seven clear of Abe for the Golden Boot, in the year that the Kyushu club finally secured promotion in their 13th season of asking. To be honest, considering how heavily Tosu rode Toyoda's goals and how much they improved (rising from 9th to 2nd, scoring 26 more goals) I would have given it to him, as I said in the middle of last month. But Konno is the most high profile player in J2, a fixture in the national team and the best player in the division, who also had a superb season, so no-one was surprised when the silverware went to him.
But the warm glow of that success was quickly banished for supporters this morning, when several newspapers (and their websites) and other football websites reported that our captain was on the verge of signing a three year contract with Gamba Osaka. We'd been made aware of an offer from the Kansai club last week, with even Tokyo Chunichi Sports reporting it, but most supporters in their heart of hearts probably believed he wouldn't go, or if he did, it would be to head to Europe and test himself at a higher level.
At 28, having stayed after our relegation and helped us back into the top flight, we couldn't have begrudged him if he chose to go overseas... but to join a team that until two seasons ago we felt we were competing for a top four or five spot with? That doesn't sit all that well. Now we can't blame a player for having ambition, as there's no doubt Gamba are a far more successful club than us - as previous J1 and Asian Champions League winners (they'll be playing in the A.C.L. next year too) - and it might be a case of him wanting a new challenge (or more money? Oooh, better not go there), but Konno has come to represent FC Tokyo more than any other player, and his loss, while we have the bodies to cover, would leave a big hole in the spirit of the squad.
Its not set in stone yet though, he's not gone yet, and of course he'll be with us for as long as we're in the Emperor's Cup, but while I hope Tokyo supporters don't resort to the antics reported here, we can only hope there are parallels with the Steven Gerrard-to-Chel$ki saga in 2005, when Liverpool's captain had an eleventh hour change of heart and opted to stay at Anfield rather than hop on Roman's bus of doom and disaster. Yasuyuki Konno is no Steven Gerrard, but hopefully he'll realise (without the nasty letters and death threats) how important he is to Gasmen supporters and stay.