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Wednesday, July 6, 2005

J. WALKING

Long-term deal for Nakazawa is good business for Marinos, Japan


A big step forward for Yokohama F. Marinos, and surely an even bigger one for the J. League in general.

Jeremy Walker

This is how Yuji Nakazawa's ground-breaking long-term deal with the Nissan-powered Marinos must be viewed, in light of past experience.

Nakazawa, who has established himself as Japan's best defender, was considering a move to Europe when his contract expired on June 30.

According to the transfer rumor mill, a number of clubs, notably Bayern Munich, Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic, had all expressed an interest in the 27-year-old, 187-cm defender.

But, with the World Cup in Germany less than a year away, Nakazawa decided to stay put, and signed a lucrative three-year, seven-month contract through to Jan. 31, 2009.

This is a smart piece of business for all concerned, and shows that Japanese clubs may be learning some valuable lessons on the financial front.

Usually, clubs offer players a one-year deal, but are protected under an antiquated Japanese transfer system that awards compensation based on age and experience if the player moves to another Japanese club.

If the buying club is from overseas, however, the player is treated as a free agent as his contract has expired, and under FIFA rules he is entitled to a "Bosman" free transfer.

This was the case with Park Ji Sung at Kyoto Purple Sanga. The club would not give him a multiyear contract, ostensibly to save money, and lost him on a "free" to PSV Eindhoven at the end of the 2002 season.

When Manchester United stepped in last month and signed him for £4 million, Kyoto had not been in a position to negotiate a "sell-on" clause from PSV, so missed out financially on two occasions.

Marinos, it seems, were not prepared to let that happen, hence the multiyear deal for Nakazawa with a salary of around 85 million yen.

It makes sense for Nakazawa, as his mind is now clear to concentrate on the 2006 World Cup.

He will be playing every week, he will be available for all Japan's warmup matches, home and away, and he won't have the emotional stress of trying to settle into a new country.

And if he wants to move to Europe next summer, then he will have no better shop window than the 2006 World Cup.

The deal makes sense for the club, too, because any prospective buyer would not be able to pick him up on the cheap. He would be under contract to Marinos for another 2 1/2 years, and the club would be able to command a hefty transfer fee.

Too often, inexperienced front-office staff have been hung out to dry by more street-wise, ruthless agents when it comes to transfers in both directions.

With this new, long-term deal for Nakazawa, the Japanese clubs, belatedly, are fighting back.

What to do with Emerson?

When he's on the pitch he's capable of scoring goals from any position, as he's proved throughout his J. League career (121 goals in 152 games).

The only problem is that he's totally unreliable off the pitch, returning late to Japan from Brazil and reporting late for training.

Former Urawa Reds manager Hans Ooft said he had fined Emerson a total of $60,000 during the 2003 Nabisco Cup-winning season due to his samba slacking.

"I told him it would be cheaper just to buy an alarm clock," said the Dutch trainer, with a classic "Ooftism."

Ooft's successor, Guido Buchwald, knows exactly what he means.

Emerson was due back in Japan from a holiday in Brazil for Urawa's training camp, starting June 23, but has gone missing.

"I don't know where he is. It's unbelievable," Buchwald said Sunday night, after his team's 2-1 win against Albirex Niigata.

Emerson had told the club, via his agent in Japan, that first his baby son had a fever and could not travel, and then his wife needed a visa for transit in the United States.

"We have a contract with Emerson, not with his wife," Buchwald said, exasperated.

"You know, he's 23 years old and could be one of the best strikers in the world. His speed, his shooting; he has everything, but . . .

"I think this is why he's in Japan and not in Europe."

Buchwald said he must plan to be without Emerson for two or three more weeks, as he will not be match-fit when he returns.

"We are a team, not just one player, and I must work with the players who are here. In July we have six league games, and this is important for the whole season."

Reds fans, however, continue to worship "Eme," and there's even a kiosk selling "Emerson Bento" at home games.

Must have left a bad taste in the mouth during Sunday's game, though.

In the art of scoring goals, the Japanese version of Emerson would have be Gamba Osaka's Masashi Oguro.

Although very different in style to the Brazilian flyer, Oguro gets the job done with a minimum of fuss and without the Emerson theatrics.

The 25-year-old striker was back into his stride immediately on Saturday when J1 resumed after a seven-week break, netting twice in Gamba's 7-1 demolition of Tokyo Verdy 1969.

The Osaka-born Oguro, who graduated from Gamba's junior youth and youth teams into the senior squad, now has a J1-high 12 for the season, and 42 in 96 career appearances dating back to 1999.

Next up for second-place Gamba is third-place Sanfrecce at Hiroshima Big Arch on Wednesday night, while shell-shocked Verdy take on Urawa at National Stadium with memories of last season's 7-2 defeat at Saitama still fresh in the mind.

Well, at least there'll be no Emerson for Verdy to worry about this time.

Player of the Week: Kashima Antlers Brazilian forward, Alex Mineiro.

He bagged both goals in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Shimizu S-Pulse to give his team a 10-point lead at the top of the first division.

Quote of the Week: "When the person in charge has shown he is not a winner, that he doesn't have the winning mentality and that he is not Mexican, it is very difficult for him to transmit it to the players."

-- Mexican great Hugo Sanchez, questioning the right of Argentine Ricardo La Volpe to coach Mexico's national team. Not surprisingly, the former Real Madrid star would like the job himself.



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