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Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Konno Gone But Two More In
Yesterday was a bittersweet day for FC Tokyo supporters, with the club finally announcing the worst kept secret in Japanese football - that club captain Yasuyuki Konno would be joining Gamba Osaka. We knew the day was coming when the best player in our club's history would depart, with rumours swirling for the best part of a month, but the actual announcement, bringing to an end Konno's eight year spell at the club, was still hard to take.
But every dark cloud has a silver lining, so they say, and earlier in the day there were a couple of pieces of good news from the club, with two more quality young players, Kosuke Ota from Shimizu and Hiroki Kawano from Verdy, signing on, and both are likely to play a big part in our first season back in J1 and our first-ever Asian Champions League campaign.
Furthermore, rumours are circulating today that the transfer fee for Konno, reportedly of around 100 million yen, is roughly what we spent to acquire not only Ota and Kawano, but also Kazuma Watanabe and Aria Jasuru Hasegawa from Yokohama along with Kenichi Kaga of Iwata, meaning the club have handled their offseason business superbly, with just the issue of a fourth foreign player, if one is to arrive, to be settled.
In Nine Months of Job Done - Part 3 - posted a week ago - I listed all the ins and outs from this already hectic close season, but the additions of fullback Ota and forward/winger Kawano look to be as important, if not more so, than Kaga and Watanabe coming on board.
Ota arrives after three seasons with Shimizu, during which time he forced his way into the national team reckoning, playing once for Japan but seeing his opportunities limited by the crowded competition at fullback. He was part of the 2007 Under 20 World Cup squad, where he was a teammate of our future captain Masato Morishige (yes, I'm going to keep calling him that until it comes true), and became an almost ever-present in the S-Pulse backline the past two seasons, making 28 appearances in 2010 and 33 starts last year.
'Kosuke, Kosuke Ooooota, goes down the wing for me, do do do do do, do do do do do'
His departure was not well received in the orange half of Shizuoka though, as after the 24 year old angled for a move abroad but it came to nothing he commented as recently as two weeks ago that he wouldn't sign for another J.League team, yet here he is now, having jumped on board Ranko Popovic's Sausage Spaceship of Glory.*
But while it stinks for them his arrival is great news for us, and gives us a naturally left sided fullback to take the spot of Kenta Mukuhara, who, while he is a fan favourite, will return to backup duty. We now boast arguably the best pair of fullbacks in the league with Ota on the left and Yuhei Tokunaga on the right, and that ensures that even without Konno, the defensive group will remain a strength of the team.
Kawano, just 21, is another left footer, and he joins a crowded group of second strikers/wingers that includes, among others, Naotake Hanyu, Sotan Tanabe, Tatsuya Yazawa, Yohei Otake and, of course, Naohiro Ishikawa. After a good, long scrub to get all that green off him I expect Kawano to leap towards the head of that queue (though those names weren't in order of course) and stake a claim for the left midfield spot in our first XI in the preseason, and he's become the signing I'm most excited to see in red and blue.
Versatile enough to play out on the flank or behind a target man, and with pace and a bag of tricks to match, the wee man is the sort of player we've been lacking on the left, someone who can get by his man and deliver a decent ball into the box for the likes of Lucas, Sota Hirayama and Watanabe to attack.
"This would be a lot better if there was more than 2,000 people here..."
We had a good look at him in both the derbies in 2011, and if Takumi Abe were still around he could tell you how good Kawano is, as the former Verdy number 7 gave our rookie left back the run around for 90 minutes back in May, and then after coming on at halftime in the 'Battle of Tokyo' at the end of October he 'assisted' on Morishige's own goal that saw them earn a point.
His place in the team could/should come at the expense of another supporter's favourite, Yazawa, but of course in this most testing of seasons there'll be games for everyone and plenty more daft goal celebrations from Yaza.
Writing all of this was designed to help me get over Konno's departure, and now that I'm done I'm pretty sure I'm going to get Kawano's name on my new A.C.L. kit. Mission accomplished then!
P.S. Casual is going off to Spain to train with Bundesliga side Dusseldorf. Who knows how that will turn out.