The change in Hidetoshi Nakata on and off the pitch is a remarkable transformation for all those who have followed his career closely.
Take events at Kashima's World Cup Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, for example.
During the training session, he was in control of his teammates, giving out more instructions than Zico. He spoke to his teammates on an individual basis or in small groups, and looked like the perfect captain.
As Zico said, he cannot be on the pitch himself, so he needs someone who understands his tactics and who has the communication skills and experience to pass them on.
After training, the media gathered around the players' exit hoping to catch the players before they jumped on the team bus and headed back to the hotel.
Nakata was one of the last out, maybe hoping he would go unnoticed as the Japanese media chased after Ono, Nakamura, Inamoto and the rest.
But, recognizing a couple of foreign journalists working in Tokyo, he stopped.
"Can we ask you some questions, Hide?" we said.
"OK, but only a few," he said, in confident, fluent English.
Throughout the question and answer session (I am sure you have seen the content of this in the Japanese media during the week), he was relaxed and always quick to show his sense of humor.
"Are you going to be captain against Uruguay?"
"I don't know. Maybe." came the reply, when he knew all along he would be.
"Does Zico expect you to lead the other players because of your experience?"
"I don't know. Please talk to him."
While continuing to be a little evasive and elusive, but in a jokey manner, this approach was nothing compared to how he used to be when he played for Bellmare Hiratsuka, and in his early years in Italy, starting with Perugia in 1998.
At times then he came across as a loner, distant to his fans and appearing to lack true passion and feeling--but never ability and courage--for the game when he was on the pitch.
I once remember him scoring a wonderful free kick against Hong Kong. Whereas David Beckham would have run off, arms outstretched, to receive the applause of his fans, Nakata looked embarrassed and just turned and trotted back to his own half.
I asked him why he did not celebrate extravagantly like other players.
"It was just a moment in time, nothing special," he said, and later added that he just happened to be good at football. It could have been something else.
"Who knows? I may have been a pianist, but it was soccer," he said.
Even Ossie Ardiles, former manager of S-Pulse and F Marinos, once said Nakata looked like he didn't care enough about the game, although he would have made him captain of the national team two or three years ago.
Nakata does care, clearly, and he is well respected in Italy by teammates and rivals alike as a person and a player.
It's just that soccer will not be his whole life all his life. One day he will move on.
For the moment it is, and his experiences in Italy have turned him into a mature, responsible leader.
The change is astonishing.