Football | Age just a number for Shunsuke Nakamure

Remember Shunsuke Nakamura?

He has just signed for Japanese side Yokohama FC at the age of 41.

Nakamura joins J2 League side Yokohama FC after two seasons at Júbilo Iwata, where he scored five goals in 46 appearances.

The former Japan international made his professional debut for Yokohama F. Marinos in 1997, scoring 38 goals in 178 appearances over the next six seasons for the club, and winning the J. League Cup in 2001. 

Nakamura was named Japanese Footballer of the Year in 2000, and was included in the J. League Best Eleven in both 1999 and 2000.

He made his international debut in 2000, but was somewhat controversially left out of Japan’s 2002 World Cup squad.

Italian side Reggina brought the midfielder to Europe in 2002, where he spent three seasons, scoring 12 goals in 89 games.

Then Celtic, managed by Gordan Strachan, came calling.
In 2005, the Scottish club signed Nakamura for a bargain £2.5 million.

The set piece specialist had caught the eye earlier that summer at the Confederations Cup, where he scored for Japan against Brazil in an entertaining 2-2 draw.

Nakamura was thrown straight into Celtic’s starting lineup in their second game of the season against Dundee United. He made an instant impact, receiving a standing ovation from the Celtic fans and being named man of the match.

Celtic won the double in his first season, with Nakamura chipping in with six goals and 10 assists.

However, it was his second season which marked him as one of Celtic’s greatest modern signings.

Nakamura became the first Japanese player to score in the Champions League after his stunning free-kick against Manchester United at Old Trafford, and scored his first Celtic hat-trick a month later in a 4-1 rout against Dundee.

The most famous goal of his Celtic career came on November 21, 2006, when he scored a sublime free kick to earn Celtic victory over United at Celtic Park.

His chip against Dundee later earned him the league’s Goal of the Season award, and it was his stoppage time free kick against Kilmarnock in April ’07 that sealed the SPL title for Celtic.

He ended his second season in Glasgow with 11 goals in 50 matches, and was named as the league’s player of the season, the club’s player of the season, and the fan’s player of the season, as well as being named in the team of the season.

Nakamura’s third season at Celtic was disrupted by injury, but the playmaker returned to play a crucial role in Celtic won their third consecutive league title.

He scored a wonderful 30-yard volley against Rangers in a top of the table clash, becoming the first Japanese man to score in the Old Firm derby.

The dead-ball specialist scored eight goals in 36 appearances as the Hoops won the title on the last day of the season.

He scored nine goals in 42 appearances in the 2008/09, but for the first time since moving to Glasgow, Celtic failed to win the league.

Now 30, Nakamura decided to go home and join Yokohama F. Marinos eight years after leaving Asia for Europe.

However, the move broke down due to contract issues, and he joined La Liga side Espanyol for a year instead.

After making just 15 appearances in Spain, he finally returned to Yokohama F. Marinos after a year.

He was named as club captain after his first season back in Yokohama, which saw him score five goals in 34 appearances.

Nakamura decided to retire from international duty after the 2010 World Cup, having amassed 98 caps for Japan (scoring 24 goals), but his club career went on.

He spent seven seasons at Yokohama F. Marinos before joining Júbilo Iwata in 2017.

Now, a fresh challenge awaits at Yokohama FC in the second division.

Remarkably, Nakamura won’t be the oldest player at the club.

That honour belongs to Kazuyoshi Miura, the world’s oldest professional player at 52 years of age.

Former Japan international Miura made his professional debut in debut in 1986, and became the the oldest professional in history to score a goal in 2017.