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Grampus: the Man City of Japan

26 Jan 2010(Tue)

January 25, 2010: Nagoya Grampus fans must be feeling pretty much the same way as Manchester City supporters at the moment: plenty of money flying about, star names coming in and talk of titles.

The big question for Nagoya is: can they rise to the top in the first season of their ambitious big-spending policy?

This is certainly the goal of manager Dragan Stojkovic and his employers; no talk of a top-three finish here to guarantee a place in the Asian Champions League for 2011 – only No. 1 is on the agenda.

Two of the new signings were unveiled on Sunday: Tulio from Urawa Reds and Mu Kanazaki from Oita Trinita. According to Stojkovic, Tulio had not been enjoying his football in recent seasons and the manager's goal was to put a smile back on his face at training and in his relationship with the supporters.

The manager will also be hoping the player's niggling injuries clear up, and Nagoya's failure to qualify for this year's ACL, after losing in the Emperor's Cup final on New Year's Day, may be a blessing in disguise for Tulio in a hectic World Cup year.

Personally, I was a bit disappointed when Tulio moved to Grampus, after all the transfer talk had focused on Europe – and in particular Wigan Athletic and FC Twente. I thought his ambition was to play in a good league in Europe and really test himself at a higher level, but obviously Pixie is a very charismatic and persuasive figure, and the salary on offer in Japan (thought to be 150 million yen per year) would have been hard to match for either of those two clubs.

Kanazaki is a great signing. He is my dark horse to make Takeshi Okada's World Cup squad because his speed, flair and unpredictability can add a new dimension to Japan's attack, especially off the bench in the last 20 minutes of a tight game.

Antlers, Reds and just about everybody else wanted to sign Kanazaki at the end of the season, but he had given his word to Nagoya and stuck to it.

Exciting times for Grampus fans, but a massive season ahead for Pixie as he must make an immediate impact with his expensive new team. Just ask Mark Hughes!

ends

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