2023 will force everyone to think it through before composing their rosters. In the end, the World Cup break will force the J1 and J2 to end sooner than later – by mid-November, everything should be done –, while J3 will go until the end of the month. This without thinking that next year will feature the AFC Asian Cup breaking the season in halves and the possible addition of one or two more teams within the pro-world.
This will inevitably impact the Winter transfer market window as well, with clubs that will have to move fast and surgically to fix their problems. But whether you’re in a relegation dogfight or just thinking about how you can get to the top of your league, there will be many, many movements throughout the full Japanese football ladder.
That’s what we’re gonna talk about in “Market Week”, a three-day festival over possible moves, why they should happen, and the players to watch out for next Winter. For the second part (after the first here), we talked about one of the most important resources in Japanese football: Loans.
They decide careers, they shape the history of players, and sometimes they even end them. We decided to talk about six players who should go on loan to regain some confidence and six who should come back to their original cubs, because they proved their value in the last season or even years.
Let’s start with the section “Push needed”, which features players between 19 and 24 years old, with less than 10 league games played until now and all coming from J1.
- Go Hatano
Goalkeeper / Age: 24
The past: He just found a few minutes last year when FC Tokyo purchased one of the best keepers in the whole league. We still have some doubts about how Slowik fits Puig’s footballing style, but he surely delivered, and he won’t let of go his starting spot.
Why go on loan? Hatano has been within the squad since 19. He’s now 24 and he’s back on the bench. He can’t just rotten there, he needs to play: a fundamental need, especially for a goalie.
Possible destination: He wouldn’t have to change city: Machida Zelvia relied on Koki Fukui, who can be one of the most reactive keepers in J2, but also face several blunders. It would be a nice stage to prove himself.
- Daigo Takahashi
Winger / Age: 23
The past: Last year, he was in this same column, but on the other side of the border, claiming to come back to S-Pulse. Unfortunately, the situation has changed: S-Pulse are overflowing with wingers… to make an example, Kenta Nishizawa isn’t playing.
Why go on loan? Despite a change of manager in the middle of the season, Zé Eduardo hasn’t really relied on Takahashi. Yuta Kamiya, Carlinhos, Benjamin Kokolli, Yuito Suzuki and even Katsuhiro Nakayama have seen more pitch time than Takahashi.
Possible destination: Vegalta Sendai have mostly relied on the forwards solving games for themselves, but if someone could help Yasushi Endo in the promotion run next season… that would be massive.
- Shun Ayukawa
Striker / Age: 21
The past: In the bleak version of Sanfrecce Hiroshima in 2021, Ayukawa surprised everyone. Despite being just 20, he breakthrough the roster, playing some games and even scoring both in J. League and J. League Cup.
Why go on loan? Skibbe made abundantly clear how he wasn’t looking to develop young talents unless they were extraordinary (ask Makoto Mitsuta). But the German manager fielded Junior Santos, Douglas Vieira, Nassim Ben Khalifa, Ezequiel, Pieros Sotirou and even Ryo Nagai more than Ayukawa.
Possible destination: Blaublitz Akita could need some fresh energy. We’re not really sure Hayate Take won’t look for a leap forward and Ayukawa would have some space in there.
- Jiro Nakamura
Offensive midfielder / Age: 19
The past: We’re talking of one of the prime talents of Japanese football (in our opinion, same expectations of Take Kubo, but with less pressure). After debuting in J3 at 16 years old, Nakamura has become gradually more involved, especially under Katanosaka.
Why go on loan? Problem: Katanosaka was sacked in the end. Furthermore, Ryutaro Meshino is back with Gamba and Takashi Usami is finally back on his feet. No more space for Nakamura, who’s now 19 and he can’t just wait for something to happen.
Possible destination: Mito HollyHock have been really good at developing talent, and this year their forwards haven’t really shone that much. They could use a bit of creativity in the final third.
- Yudai Kimura
Striker / Age: 21
The past: He already was involved with Sanga last year, although he never played in J2. Then we’ve seen some moments in J. League Cup and the kid has talent. He’ll join Kyoto for good in 2023.
Why go on loan? Because if Sanga will be able to avoid relegation, they need something more upfront. It was indeed the reason why they struggled to seal salvation at this point.
Possible destination: If Gunma will be able to stay up, they’ve been solid at giving a platform to young talent. We see no solid starter right now and Kimura could have a shot at having some solid minutes in J2.
- Ryunosuke Sagara
Offensive midfielder, Winger / Age: 20
The past: Like Jiro Nakamura – but for different reasons –, Sagara is a wunderkind. He debuted in 2020 throughout the pandemic, when Sagan gave an 18 years-old winger a start, and Sagara scored immediately against Gamba Osaka.
Why go on loan? The beauty of Sagan is that they’re able to bring Yuto Iwasaki to wear the no. 10 for Japan, but they can lose sight on some of the talents they have. It happened for Jun Nishikawa, and it happened for Sagara too in 2022 (he played just 358 minutes in all competitions).
Possible destination: He maybe won’t start right away, but Zweigen could be an interesting match. And Kanazawa have always developed some talents from Sagan (we’ll read about that forward in the piece).
The other section is called “Veni, Vidi, Vici”, which features players who were on loan this season from J1 clubs and deserve to come back for a new chapter in their home teams. You might see the absence of two excellent prospects – Yuki Kakita and Taisei Miyashiro –, but we have already advised respectively Kashima and Kawasaki to bring them home last year.
- Motohiko Nakajima
Vegalta Sendai » Cerezo Osaka
Winger / Age: 23
The past: Nakajima has been involved with Cerezo and their U-23 team since he was 18. He’s been one of the brightest products from that experience and had two satisfying stints with Albirex in 2020 and Vegalta this year, both in J2.
Why come back? 7 assists and 4 goals are a good reason. In general, he seems that kind of player that can unlock a game by himself.
What to expect: If Cerezo will somehow play ACL next year, they’ll surely need a deeper squad. On the flanks, they have Nakahara, Tameda, Kiyotake, and Jean Patric. Nakajima could easily take some minutes.
- Kosei Tani
Shonan Bellmare » Gamba Osaka
Goalkeeper / Age: 21
The past: A brilliant three years-loan to Shonan – although this last season has probably been the worst – should be rewarded with a welcome back to Osaka. And furthermore, does it really make sense to stay at Bellmare right now?
Why come back? Because Gamba need to capitalize properly on their kids, especially at the back, where they haven’t been able to create the same number of talents seen up front.
What to expect: Honestly, it’s hard to say goodbye to Higashiguchi, who’s been the best keeper in J. League in the last 3-4 years (hands down, despite being 35). But the no. 1 could maybe look towards a return to Niigata. Or if Gamba will go down, can he afford to stay?
- Hiroya Matsumoto
Zweigen Kanazawa » Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Midfielder / Age: 22
The past: Probably “THE” revelation from J2. After a few years warming the bench in Hiroshima, Sanfrecce made (again) the right choice in loaning a player. Matsumoto has been massive for Zweigen: 7 goals, as a holding midfielder.
Why come back? Because Sanfrecce have begun a new course under Skibbe, but there’s one department where probably the roster is still old: midfielders. Takahiro Aoyama is an institution, but he would really need a successor.
What to expect: We don’t see why Sanfrecce shouldn’t welcome him back. They have Gakuto Notsuda, but Taishi Matsumoto isn’t at the same level. Tsukasa Shiotani isn’t playing in that position, and Kosei Shibasaki is 38 years old.
- Ryonosuke Kabayama
Montedio Yamagata » Yokohama F. Marinos
Winger / Age: 20
The past: His flashes with Marinos have been a light in the dark. The kid is really talented, and he’s been loaned twice to Montedio Yamagata, where Peter Cklamovski gave him a few more minutes.
Why come back? Thereotically, Marinos are full upfront. Especially on the wings, with Elber and Teruhito Nakagawa starting. But Kabayama could be the third option after a few months of apprenticeship.
What to expect: Kevin Muscat should really give him a chance. Sure, Kabayama could stay a third, full season in Yamagata, but he’s been already tested there. It’s either J1 or Marinos.
- Zain Issaka
Yokohama FC » Kawasaki Frontale
Right-back / Age: 25
The past: He barely played with Frontale, only to go on loan to Yokohama FC, where he found some former teammates as well. It hasn’t been starting all the time, but with 26 games, 2 goals, and 5 assists, he had a nice time.
Why come back? It’s not for granted – Yokohama FC are really close to being promoted again –, but they might rely on Takumi Nakamura (former FC Tokyo) or look for other players to acquire.
What to expect: Issaka shone as a right-wing, but Frontale need desperately someone as a back-up to Yamane. It’s a role where they’ve been short.
- Daisuke Matsumoto
Zweigen Kanazawa » Sagan Tosu
Center-back / Age: 24
The past: He hasn’t been starting constantly, but Matsumoto found a space in Kanazawa to become a part of a solid season by Zweigen. A right choice by Sagan to sign him and loan him right away
Why come back? He could stay another year in Kanazawa to improve even more, but Sagan need to expand the center-back department.
What to expect: Matsumoto has already featured in that three-center-backs line-up, and Hwang Seok-ho and Masaya Tashiro aren’t getting any younger.
Stay tuned for another episode tomorrow! “Market Week” had already one episode out (you can read it here), and we’ll have plenty of chances to talk about several players and their future in 2023.