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Shunsuke Nakamura is not to be confused with Shinsuke Nakamura, the Japanese professional wrestler/MMA fighter

 is a Japanesemarker football (soccer) player who currently plays for Espanyol in the Spanish top flight. He is one of the most prominent and successful Asian players to have played in Europe and
on 13 September 2006 became the first Japanese player to score in the UEFA Champions League and the second Asian player to do so. He is also well known for his free kick-taking abilities.

He has won the Asian Cup in 2000 and 2004 with the Japanese national football team, and was named Most Valuable Player in the 2004 competition. He has also appeared in the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship, and the 2000 Summer Olympics as a member of the Japanese Under-23 team.

In his first season with Celtic, Nakamura helped the club win the Scottish Premier League and Scottish League Cup. His contributions to the Japanese national football team are represented by 22 goals. His former clubs include Yokohama F. Marinos and Reggina, for whom he scored 38 and 12 goals respectively before moving to Celtic on 25 July 2005 for a fee of around £2.75 million.

Playing style

Nakamura lining up a free kick
Nakamura is a winger and was usually deployed by Celtic on the right hand side of midfield. He had previously been positioned in the centre or on the left hand side of the pitch, since he is left-footed.

He is known for his vision and touch, as well as being a set-piece specialist. He can create scoring opportunities for his teammates but is also capable of scoring himself. Former Shimizu S-Pulse and Kashiwa Reysol manager and Tottenham Hotspur player Steve Perryman once remarked that Nakamura was so good, he "could open a tin of beans with his left foot".

Slightly built, weighing just 68 kg, Nakamura has been criticized for lack of strength on the ball, and his physical weakness was one of the reason for his omission from Japan's 2002 FIFA World Cup squad. However, he has addressed this shortcoming during his three seasons in Italy and he has flourished in the more physical Scottish Premier League.

Early years

Born and raised in Yokohama, Japan, Nakamura began playing football competitively at age 5, playing with the local youth club side Misono FC until he entered junior high school. In fifth grade, he was selected for Yokohama's city all-star team's tour of the former Soviet Unionmarker, even though the team was only meant to include sixth graders.

In 1991 at age 12, he joined Nissan FC Junior Youth, the youth division of Nissan Motors' club side, which would become Yokohama Marinos when J. League began play in 1993.

However, Nakamura was not promoted to the Nissan FC Youth team in 1994, and he enrolled at Toko Gakuen High School in Kawasaki. There, Nakamura was named the most valuable player of Japan's national high school football tournament in 1995, and led the school to the tournament final in 1996.

After graduation from Toko Gakuen in 1997, Nakamura signed with the local club, Yokohama Marinos.

Club career

Yokohama Marinos (1997-2002)

In 1997, 19-year-old Nakamura joined Yokohama Marinos of J. League (later merged with Yokohama Flugels and renamed "Yokohama F. Marinos"), a club whose youth side he had played for when it was known as Nissan Motors FC. He made his début with Marinos on 16 April of that year against Gamba Osaka. Nakamura finished the season with 27 appearances and 5 goals.

In 2000, Nakamura had his best season in Yokohama, recording 5 goals and 11 assists, and winning the J League Most Valuable Player award.

Nakamura left Marinos during the 2002 season to join Reggina of Serie A, after the clubs agreed to a US$3.5 million transfer fee following a 6-month loan period.

Reggina (2002-2005)

Following the disappointment of being omitted from Japan's final World Cup squad, Nakamura joined Italianmarker club Reggina, newly promoted to Serie A. Expectations for Nakamura were high, as he was given the prestigious number 10 shirt from the start, and he responded by scoring in three consecutive matches early in the season.

However, Nakamura struggled with injuries, appearing in just 18 matches in the 2003-04 season, while the club struggled to avoid relegation all three seasons he played there. After three seasons in Italy, he felt it was time to move on.

Celtic (2005-2009)

Nakamura expressed interest in playing in Spainmarker and media reports linked him to Atlético Madrid and Deportivo La Coruña of La Liga as well as Bundesliga teams Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 2005, but Nakamura ultimately chose to join Scottish Premier League champions Celtic.

He made an immediate impact at Celtic, and was named Man of the Match in his début against Dundee United on 6 August 2005. His creativity, as well as his work ethic and composure under pressure has won praise from teammates, manager Gordon Strachan and Celtic supporters.

In his first season with Celtic, Nakamura won his first major club titles, the Scottish Premier League and Scottish League Cup. On 13 September 2006, he played his début Champions League game against Manchester United at Old Traffordmarker. He scored from a free kick to bring the game level at 2-2. However, the game ended with the home side winning 3-2. On 14 October 2006, in a league game against Dundee United at Tannadicemarker Nakamura scored the first hat-trick of his Celtic career and won the Man of the Match award. The game ended 4-1 in Celtic's favour.On 21 November 2006, Nakamura scored perhaps the most important goal of his career to date with a 30-yard free-kick against Manchester United at Celtic Parkmarker in a crucial Champions League game. The goal resulted in Celtic progressing to the Champions League knockout stage for the first time. On 26 December 2006, Nakamura chipped the ball over Dundee United's goalkeeper Derek Stillie at Celtic Park (He won the Goal of the Season award by this). It was Nakamura's performance in the final 20 minutes of the game which allowed Celtic to escape with a point, prompting Gordon Strachan to proclaim him "a genius".

On 25 February 2007, during the Scottish Cup quarter-final between Celtic and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Nakamura broke a bone in his left hand after an Inverness player stepped on it. However, Nakamura played in the next game on 3 March against Dunfermline Athletic.Gordon Strachan, said that they couldn’t play the second leg of the Champions League match against the European Champions AC Milan in San Siro without him. He played in both legs of the fixture, the first of which was a 0-0 draw at Celtic Park, with Milan going on to win the tie 1-0 at the San Siromarker, after extra time.

On 22 April 2007 Celtic won their 41st league championship, and second in a row. The title was won in dramatic fashion by an injury time free-kick from Nakamura in a 2-1 victory against Kilmarnock. The result left Celtic 13 points clear of Rangers with four matches remaining. Quite fittingly, later that day Nakamura was recognized by his peers by him winning the Scottish Professional Footballers' Association's player of the year award for 2007. This was followed in May by the Scottish Football Writers' Association player of the year award and both Players Player of the Year award and the Fans Player of the Year award at Celtic's own end of season awards ceremony. He was also awarded SPL goal of the season for his goal against Dundee Utd.

Nakamura featured little in the first part of Celtic's 2007–08 campaign due to a knee injury which was picked up in a Champions League qualifying match against Spartak Moscow in August 2007 and repeatedly aggravated, including in a match against Motherwell on 27 October 2007, after which Nakamura sat out for nearly three months. Nakamura returned to play on 12 January 2008, for Celtic's Scottish Cup match against Stirling Albion, in which he scored a goal.

On 16 April 2008 Nakamura scored his first goal against Glasgow rivals Rangers in a 2-1 victory for Celtic. This goal made him the first ever Japanese player to score in an Old Firm game. He later had a goal bound effort illegally cleared off the line by Carlos Cuellar in the same match.

On 1 July, it was reported that newly-promoted Serie A side Bologna were interested in acquiring Nakamura's services from Celtic. However, the player has reiterated his desire to see out the remaining years of his contract until he returns to Yokohama F. Marinos to end his career.

On 13 September, Nakamura played his 100th Scottish Premier League match in a 4–2 victory against Motherwell.

On 28 February 2009, he scored a hat trick against St. Mirren in a 7-0 win.

Espanyol (2009-Present)

Many media have speculated that Nakamura returned to his hometown club Yokohama F. Marinos after the four year contract with Celtic. In June 2009, just before a medical checkup in Yokohama, the negotiation broke down due to unknown reasons. On 22 June 2009, it was announced that Nakamura had agreed terms with Spanish Primera Division side Espanyol. He agreed to join on a two-year contract, subject to a medical examination.

He made his debut with "Los Pericos" in the first league match of the 2009-10 season against Athletic Bilbao, playing the entire game.

National team

Nakamura playing for the national team.

Youth national teams (1996-2000)

Nakamura's national team career with Japan started in 1996 as the only high school player selected to the Under-19 team for the Asia Youth Championship. The following year, he was a member of Japan's Under-20 team that finished in the final 8 of the FIFA World Youth Championship.

In 1999, Nakamura was selected a member of Japan's Under-23 team that won all its Asian qualifying matches in the run up to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Nakamura formed a lethal combination in the attacking midfield with Shinji Ono on a team that would form the core of the Japanese national team, and included Atsushi Yanagisawa, Junichi Inamoto and Naohiro Takahara. In Sydney, Japan reached the quarterfinal round.

Under Troussier (2000-02)

Nakamura made his senior national team debut on 13 February 2000, in an Asian Cup qualifier match against Singaporemarker. He scored his first national team goal against Bruneimarker in the very next match on 16 February 2000, also in Asian Cup qualifying.

After helping Japan win Asian Cup 2000, Nakamura appeared to have cemented his place in the national team, having played every match of the tournament. However, his national team career took a sharp turn in a friendly match on 25 March 2001, a humiliating 5-0 loss to France. He did not play for the team led by manager Philippe Troussier again until almost a year later, in a friendly match against Ukraine on 21 March 2002.

Although Nakamura played in four friendly matches leading up to the 2002 World Cup Finals, he was left out of the 23-man squad to the disappointment of fans. In the second to last warm up match for the World Cup against Honduras, he scored two goals, one of them a curling shot made directly from a corner kick. However, he picked up a knee injury against Honduras and did not play in the final warm up match, a 3-0 loss against Norwaymarker, and was ultimately not picked for the World Cup squad.

Despite Nakamura's talents, Troussier could not find a place in his rigid, defensive-minded system. He believed Nakamura lacked the physique and stamina to play either the center or the left of the midfield, and had a surplus of players at both positions.

Under Zico (2002-06)

After the World Cup, Troussier resigned as manager of Japan, and was replaced by former Brazil and Kashima Antlers star Zico. The new coach immediately brought the talented player back to the national team, starting Nakamura in his début against Jamaica.

Zico has lauded Nakamura's improvement since 2002, especially his physical development, stating, "Unquestionably, he has improved a great deal since his move to Serie A. He is the soul of our midfield." Nakamura has flourished under Zico's attacking style and earned his place as the central playmaker. He led Japan to the championship at Asian Cup 2004, where he was named Most Valuable Player, and qualification for the 2006 World Cup Finals. Nakamura also starred for Japan in the 2003 and 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, scoring a total of 4 goals in 6 matches.

Nakamura was suspended for the World Cup qualification match against North Korea on 8 June 2005 that clinched Japan's place in the 2006 Finals, he nonetheless played a key role in the qualifying run and has replaced Hidetoshi Nakata as the main playmaker in Japan's attack.

In the 2006 FIFA World Cup Nakamura scored the controversial opening goal in Japan's first game against Australia, which Australia came back to win 3-1.


Club and national team


Career statistics

As of 24 May, 2009

National team career statistics

Appearances in major competitions

Last update: 14 October 2009

Goals for national team

Last update: 19 November 2009Shunsuke Nakamura: International Goals

National team Appearances

Personal life

Nakamura married a former Japanese talent in 2004. In the same year, his first son was born. His second son was born on 15 January 2008 in Glasgow, Scotland. Nakamura enjoys baseball, which is the most popular sport in Japan. His favourite team is Yomiuri Giants. He bats right-handed and throws right-handed though he is a left-footed footballer. According to the Evening Times, he is a fan of the Grand Theft Autoand Gran Turismovideo games. He has appeared with Zico on the front cover of the Japanese releases of Konami'sWinning Elevenvideo game series (WE 5WE 9, WE 9: Ubiquitous Evolutionand WE 10) in 2001, 2005 and 2006. He also appeared on the front cover of Namco'sFootball Kingdom Trial Editionin 2004. He is the paid promoter of the Yamada electronics chain. His current boot sponsor is Adidas.


  1. FC Japan
  2. - Soccer - Italy: Nakamura confirms move to Reggina - Thursday 4 July 2002 07:26 AM
  3. ESPNsoccernet - Europe - Nakamura set for Primera Liga switch
  4. He's the Orient express - Sport
  6. Scottish Football News - Shunsuke Nakamura :: Soccerphile
  7. ABC Sport Online - World Cup 2006 - Shunsuke Nakamura: Creative heartbeat
  8. Celtic into knockout phase with win over Man Utd
  9. BBC SPORT | Football | Scottish Premier | Nakamura takes top player award
  11. Colin Moffat, Kilmarnock 1-2 Celtic, BBC Sport, 22 April 2007
  12. Nakamura takes top player award, BBC News, 22 April 2007, Retrieved 22 April 2007
  13. Nakamura gets top writers' prize BBC Sport Online, 2007-05-02 Retrieved 2007-05-02
  14. - 2002 World Cup - Santos lifts Japan to 3-3 draw with Honduras - Thursday 2 May 2002 01:30 PM
  15. World Cup 2002: Japan veterans given surprise call-up
  16. FC Japan
  17. ESPNsoccernet - Europe - Celtic chase signing of Nakamura
  21. SPFA's team of the 2006/07 season
  22. Clean sweep for Nakamura

External links

1997 Yokohama Marinos J. League Division 1 27 5 1 0 3 0 - 31 5
1998 33 9 0 0 4 1 - 37 10
1999 26 7 3 1 4 0 - 33 8
2000 30 5 2 0 4 1 - 36 6
2001 24 3 1 0 6 2 - 31 5
2002 8 4 - - - 8 4

2002-03 Reggina Serie A 32 7 4 1 - - 36 8
2003-04 16 2 2 0 - - 18 2
2004-05 33 2 0 0 - - 33 2

2005-06 Celtic Premier League 33 6 1 0 4 0 - 38 6
2006-07 37 9 4 0 0 0 8 2 49 11
2007-08 26 6 4 1 0 0 4 0 34 7
2008-09 32 8 2 0 3 1 5 0 42 9

2009-10 Espanyol La Liga 9 0 2 0 - - 11 0
Team Competition Category Appearances Goals Team Record
Start Sub
1997 FIFA World Youth Championship U-20 5 0 1 Quarterfinals
2000 AFC Asian Cup qualification Senior 3 0 2 Qualified
2000 Olympics U-23 4 0 0 Quarterfinals
2000 AFC Asian Cup Senior 5 0 0 Champions
2003 FIFA Confederations Cup Senior 2 0 3 Round 1
2004 AFC Asian Cup Senior 6 0 2 Champions
2005 FIFA Confederations Cup Senior 3 0 1 Round 1
2006 FIFA World Cup qualification Senior 7 1 1 Qualified
2006 FIFA World Cup Senior 3 0 1 Round 1
2007 AFC Asian Cup Senior 6 0 2 4th Place
2010 FIFA World Cup qualification Senior 11 0 1 Qualified
Goal Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 16 February 2000 Macaumarker, Chinamarker 9-0 Won Asian Cup 2000 Qual
2. 11 June 2000 Miyagi, Japanmarker 1-1 Draw Friendly
3. 16 August 2000 Hiroshima, Japanmarker 3-1 Won Friendly
4. 2 May 2002 Kobe, Japanmarker 3-3 Draw Friendly
5. 2 May 2002 Kobe, Japanmarker 3-3 Draw Friendly
6. 28 March 2003 Tokyo, Japanmarker 2-2 Draw Friendly
7. 18 June 2003 Paris, Francemarker 3-0 Won Confederations Cup 2003 Group Stage
8. 18 June 2003 Paris, Francemarker 3-0 Won Confederations Cup 2003 Group Stage
9. 20 June 2003 Saint-Étienne, Francemarker 1-2 Lost Confederations Cup 2003 Group Stage
10. 9 June 2004 Saitama, Japanmarker 7-0 Won World Cup 2006 Qual
11. 20 July 2004 Chongqing, Chinamarker 1-0 Won Asian Cup 2004 Group Stage
12. 24 July 2004 Chongqing, Chinamarker 4-1 Won Asian Cup 2004 Group Stage
13. 22 June 2005 Cologne, Germanymarker 2-2 Draw Confederations Cup 2005 Group Stage
14. 7 September 2005 Miyagi, Japanmarker 5-4 Won Friendly
15. 8 October 2005 Riga, Latviamarker 2-2 Draw Friendly
16. 12 June 2006 Kaiserslautern, Germanymarker 1-3 Lost World Cup 2006 Group Stage
17. 13 July 2007 Hanoimarker, Vietnammarker 3-1 Won 2007 AFC Asian Cup Group Stage
18. 16 July 2007 Hanoimarker, Vietnammarker 4-1 Won 2007 AFC Asian Cup Group Stage
19. 11 September 2007 Klagenfurtmarker, Austriamarker 4-3 Won Friendly
20. 11 September 2007 Klagenfurtmarker, Austriamarker 4-3 Won Friendly
21. 2 June 2008 Yokohamamarker, Japanmarker 3-0 Won World Cup 2010 Qual
22. 6 September 2008 Riffamarker, Bahrainmarker 3-2 Won World Cup 2010 Qual
23. 28 March 2009 Saitamamarker, Japanmarker 1-0 Won World Cup 2010 Qual
24. 18 November 2009 Hong Kong Stadiummarker, Hong Kongmarker 4-0 Won 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualification
Year Appearances Goals
2000 16 3
2001 1 0
2002 6 2
2003 8 4
2004 15 3
2005 11 2
2006 6 2
2007 10 4
2008 9 2
2009 11 2
93 24

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