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Nakata moves sideways, not forwards

26 Jul 2004(Mon)

When the 2003-04 season ended in Europe, I really thought it was time Hidetoshi Nakata got out of Italy and moved to pastures new.

So when I heard he had signed for Fiorentina, I must admit to being very disappointed.

Although it is a new club for Nakata, and an interesting story surrounding Fiorentina's demise and rebirth, it means another season mired in Serie A mediocrity.

Yet more games in half-empty stadiums on a Sunday afternoon.

By all accounts, Nakata wanted to move to England, and specifically to London.

After six seasons in Italy--one and a half at Perugia, the same at Roma, two and a half at Parma and half a season at Bologna--he was ready for a change.

For some reason I imagined him joining Crystal Palace, newly promoted and needing a bit of star quality and top-flight experience.

Nakata would have given them this, as I feel his game is ideally suited to the demands of the English Premier League.

He has the physical strength and can play at a fast pace. He has the stamina and the vision. He can score goals, though not as many as he should be doing, and he can create them for his teammates.

He can also speak fluent English, so that would have helped him settle in.

So why didn't a move to England materialise?

Perhaps because English clubs can't make up their minds on Japanese players. After three years in England, one with Arsenal and two with Fulham, we still don't know whether Inamoto is a "hit" or a "miss".

Then there's the price.

Nakata would not have been too expensive regarding the transfer fee, but his salary is high and this may have put off potential buyers.

So, at 27 years old, Nakata has signed a three-year contract with Fiorentina, meaning he could stay in Italy until he retires.

I cannot see Nakata playing on much beyond that, as he has other interests outside the game and is smart enough to have prepared for his long-term future.

He's the kind of person who could walk away from the game tomorrow and not miss it.

Maybe now we will never see him in England, which is a great pity as I think he could have been a big success on the glamorous, colourful stage of the Premier League.


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