The century’s bargain

As you may know – if you’ve been following Japanese football for some time –, Winter is a time for transformation. We feel older, it’s mostly represented with a cold weather and it’s pre-season time. Basically, it’s the moment where clubs try to put the pieces together and look for a remedy to the mistakes done in the past. Sometimes, though, an opportunity might arise for something even greater than that.

That chance popped up for V-Varen Nagasaki, who felt understandably down after the end of 2020. They had an amazing run in the first part of the season, being for the whole year in contention to reach J1 once again (they stayed in the Top 4 for the whole championship but one matchday, the first one). Unfortunately, in the final stint of 2020, V-Varen had several slip-ups and they gave up on Matchday 41, when both Tokushima Vortis and Avispa Fukuoka saw their promotions sealed.

The board had to do something to keep the momentum, especially thinking that Makoto Teguramori left after two solid seasons in Kyushu to go back to his beloved Sendai. While some doubts are justifiable thinking of the new head coach – Takayuki Yoshida, two previous experiences in J1 with Vissel Kobe and former assistant coach of Teguramori –, the roster’s quality was deeply boosted.

In just one Winter, Nagasaki assured themselves the confirm of Caio César, while Ryo Shinzato, Ryohei Yamazaki and Ken Tokura were added to the squad. But there’s one major acquisition standing out not just as the best from this Winter, but probably as the best operation a J2 has ever made in a transfer market window: Edigar Junio Teixeira Lima has moved permanently to Nagasaki.

And it looks like a slam dunk-move on the title-race opponents.

From Brazil to Yokohama

When Edigar Junio came to Japan the first time, he didn’t look like a game-changer. Class ’91 and a product of Atlético Paranaense’s youth ranks, the striker never came back to his club, finding more success between Joinville and Bahia. Once he opted to leave Brazil for an experience abroad, Edigar Junio moved to Yokohama and joined Marinos, where the revolution by Ange Postecoglou was just about to start.

Surprisingly, the Brazilian no. 30 became the main option of a super-attack: while Marcos Júnior and Teruhito Nakagawa were both shining, Junio scored three goals in the opening two games and then collected a wonderful run of eight goals in eight games between June and July. Unfortunately, a sudden knee injury left him out of the squad exactly when Marinos started their dominating run to the title in the second part of the season.

When he came back to the squad, Postecoglou assured himself another striker – Ado Onaiwu from Urawa Red Diamonds – and Edigar Junio didn’t look as efficient as he was in his rookie season. After scoring 11 goals in 16 league matches in 2019, he dropped to just three goals with same number of games played in 2020. With Erik also featuring as a no. 9 and the sudden explosion of Júnior Santos, there was no more place for him.

The golden oasis in Nagasaki

Can the tables turn that much in just one year? They might, but Edigar Junio didn’t feel it was over. After Marinos had to move some players due to foreign rules for the upcoming ACL bubble, the Brazilian striker took the chance and joined a new team… in J2. Pretty surprising, but if there was a squad lacking offensive firepower among the ones fighting for promotion, it was indeed right to move to Nagasaki.

Back in Brazil with Bahia.

When the Marinos-loanee played his first match with V-Varen, back then the club guided by Teguramori had indeed scored 40 goals in 29 matches, but the forwards were nowhere near the benchmark requested. To put in perspective, the top-scorer for V-Varen last year was Cayman Togashi with… seven goals. Ibarbo scored three, Junki Hata five and Keiji Tamada (39 years old!) six. They definitely needed something up front.

In a solid home win against Mito HollyHock, Edigar Junio enter the field in the 69th minute and scored his first goal and the final one by V-Varen in injury time. It was just a matter of time before he started cooking: the Brazilian striker featured just 11 times, scoring five goals. V-Varen had a brilliant run to the end of the year – 29 points in 13 games, the best team in that timeframe –, but it wasn’t enough to reach promotion.

Unleash the beast?

With an incredible timing, Nagasaki gifted themselves a nice present for the end of the year: two days before New Year’s Eve, Bahia announced they sold Edigar Junio to V-Varen, saying “the player strongly wanted to stay in Japan” and hinting how much the Brazilian striker wanted to pursue this adventure with his new Japanese club. A surprising news, but also a potential game-changer.

Yes, because there’s no doubt this has been the best operation of this Winter transfer market window in J2. In all truthfulness, it might have been the best operation of all leagues this Winter and it surely has a case as one of the best moves ever done by a J2 club in the league’s history. The reason is simple: Nagasaki came achingly close to promotion in 2020 and they needed to boost one specific department, their offensive line-up.

They got Ken Tokura, they got Ryohei Yamazaki, they kept Victor Ibarbo. And now they had a player that not only is now a full property of the club, but a striker that could rewrite some history books (if he’ll stay injury-free, which is a big “if” to put there). We know the record of 37 goals in one season – currently held by Juninho and Hulk – seems bogus to consider, but who knows if those two Brazilian strikers might have found some company at the end of 2021.

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