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Japanese club trying to lure Nakata out of retirement

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 15 May 2008

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The managing director of J-League side Tokyo Verdy is trying to lure former Japan star Hidetoshi Nakata out of retirement, with the club saying on Thursday he had spoken to the midfielder's agent.

Ruy Ramos contacted the 31-year-old's agent after watching him train on Wednesday for a charity match, the club's public relations office said.

“It is not that Mr Ramos has made a formal offer as managing director. He talked about the matter in a chat. It was nothing more, nothing less,” a Tokyo Verdy spokeswoman said.

Ramos got in touch with agent Etsuko Tsugihara after Nakata showed he still had the physical strength and probing passes on which he built his fame.

Former Asian Player of the Year Nakata retired after the 2006 World Cup and now takes part in charity and social work. He will lead a team of former Japanese all-stars in a match against a world selection in Yokohama on June 7.

However, an official at Tsugihara's sports management firm Sunny Side Up said: “Nakata has no plan at all to come back as an active player.

“We have not received any formal offer and we cannot make any comment.”

Ramos has told Tsugihara that he could line up a two-year deal worth millions of dollars, the daily Tokyo Sports reported.

But the agent was quoted as replying that Nakata still remained a “traveller by his trade.” He added: “We may have a long talk about it sometime.”

Since retiring, Nakata has spent much of his time travelling, occasionally doing charity work with street children in Southeast Asia and serving as a goodwill ambassador for football's world governing body FIFA.

Ramos told the Tokyo Sports: “Nakata may need just three months to shape his body back into what it used to be. We can sign him up in August. I am serious. People in other clubs also want to see Nakata in action.”

Nakata was the first Japanese player to join a European club since Kazuyoshi Miura played for Italian Serie A side Genoa in 1994-1995.

He spent seven years in Italy — with Perugia, Roma, Parma, Bologna and Fiorentina — before moving to English Premier League outfit Bolton on a one-year loan in 2005.

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