Another caption for Sandy to edit

It is not only Celtic supporters who are feeling downhearted by their loss of key playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura. While it did not diminish the unhappiness and sense of loss, the belief that he was turning his back on Celtic only to return to his homeland and the team of his heart Yokohama Marinos at least made his loss to Celtic have some kind of emotional understanding and resonance.

However it is now certain that Nakamura will spend the next two seasons not as the returning hero in the club of his youth but as a merchandising mercenary in Espanol, the second club in Barcelona. It turned out Yokohama Marinos were unable to deliver the kind of financial package Nakamura had been initially led to believe would be on offer and Espanol swooped quickly to offer a more appetising short-term deal, which they are already working hard on recovering through accessing the Japanese market.

Espanol spent most of last season looking likely to be relegated only to be saved at the last by inspirational new manager, ex Espanol and Argentina player Mauricio Pochettino. While Espanol should probably avoid a relegation struggle in 2009-2010 they are not in Europe and are unlikely to be in contention for Spanish domestic honours. But Nakamura has decided that this quiet football life in sunny Barcelona is preferably to the option of continuing in gloomy Glasgow with his ‘beloved’ Celtic.

While the despair and unhappiness at this development is great in the green half of Scotland, it is surpassed by the unhappiness and sense of disillusion being displayed in Yokohama where his arrival was accepted as a given for many months. In a move typical of Japanese culture but extremely unlikely to be replicated in any UK or European Boardroom, the President of Yokohama Marinos, Masaharu Saito, has responded to the disgrace of failing to deliver the promised transfer by agreeing to cut his own salary by 50% for the 7 months remaining of the Japanese season. Saito said “I profoundly regret not being able to respond to the desires of our people. As President, I take total responsibility” Compare this honourable reaction with Ramon Calderon the President who promised Real Madrid fans Ronaldo, Kaka, and Fabregas, delivered none of them, and proved himself a man totally without honour.

Yokohama Marinos are funded by Nissan and it would appear the lost transfer is a direct effect of the world economic crisis and its effect on the Japanese Car Industry. In such a climate Nissan drastically reduced the financial support they were willing to offer to fund this transfer and it would appear their final offer was £1m per year for 2½ years. The Espanol offer he accepted was apparently somewhere between 1¼ and 1½ million euros a year for 2 years. But Espanol also hope to get their hands on a fraction of the 8m euros a year Nakamura is reputed to earn from personal endorsements in his native Japan.

All the Espanol public comment around the transfer was not about what a cultured player they had acquired, how his magic control and passing ability allied to dead ball mastery would enhance their quality of play, rather it was greedily commercial about how their new signing would allow them to access the Japanese market and enhance their income. The Espanol President Sanchez Llibre told Spanish paper Marca that the Nakamura signing would be worth a great deal of money to Espanol in increased revenue and that the transfer would prove more important to Espanol than that of Kaka would to Real Madrid.
Nakamura was quoted as saying “I feel attached to Yokohama Marinos and thank them for their offer. But playing in Spain has always been my dream and I want to try it”. No quote is available from Mrs Nakamura, who on becoming pregnant pressed her husband to return to Japan after 7 years in Europe and seemed to have succeeded. Now the family will have to adjust to a move to Spain rather than Japan. At least Celtic fans will get to see their old favourite occasionally on Sky TV.