What will happen to Gamba’s legion of loanees?

With no J1 action this week owing to the international break and disappointing results for both Gamba U23 (3-0 losers at Blaublitz Akita) and Gamba Youth (who lost 4-0 to Nagoya Grampus U18 in the final of the Youth Cup), I decided to look at how Gamba’s large contingent of loanees have been getting on.

#2 Hiroki Noda (Montedio Yamata) – 22 years old – centre-back – Playing for Gamba U23 Noda always reminded me of the book Moneyball where Billy Beane basically said the only reason he had a pro-baseball career was due to the fact that he looked like a pro-baseball player. Standing 181cm, broad shouldered and strong, Noda looks like your archetypical centre-back, but to my eyes he’s never really performed at anything better than J3 level. I was surprised he went to Yamagata, a high flying J2 outfit with a strong defence, less surprising was his failure to make much of an impact, only 6 appearances to date. I think a return home to Kumamoto for 2020 may work out well for all parties concerned.

#14 Koki Yonekura (JEF United Chiba) – 31 – right-back – One of my favourite Gamba players since he joined from JEF in 2014, but even I have to reluctantly agree that his days as a J1 player are numbered. I know JEF are his hometown club, but there seems to be something badly wrong with their team environment so I’d love to see him join a side higher up the table, one who are genuinely looking for promotion.

#17 Mizuki Ichimaru (FC Gifu) – 22 – centre-midfield – Was highly rated a couple of years back and even appeared on all the Gamba promotional material alongside Endo, Konno, Higashiguchi etc, clearly being pushed as the new face of the Gamba Youth set-up. Niggling injuries every season seem to have hindered his development and he looked pretty disinterested when I saw him playing in J3 early this season. A loan move to FC Gifu brought 14 league appearances and 2 assists but also relegation and another injury. I can’t see him coming back to Gamba and playing, maybe he’ll leave permanently for a lower tier J2 or upper tier J3 side or he may go out on loan for another year.

#18 Akito Takagi (Montedio Yamagata) – 22 – centre-forward / right-wing – In the form of his life with Gamba U23 at the start of the year netting 11 times in just 17 games before moving to Yamagata on loan. If I were Gamba I wouldn’t be in a hurry to loan Yamagata any more players as shortly after he arrived they also brought in Yuya Yamagishi from FC Gifu in the same position. As a result Takagi has mustered 1 goal in 10 appearances (only 1 start) and must wonder what the future holds. He looks like an excellent prospect but he’ll surely be crowded out when it comes to a starting slot next year….another loan move to a lower ranked J2 side probably beckons.

#20 Hiroto Goya (V-Varen Nagasaki) – 25 – centre-forward – Things couldn’t have gone any better for Goya personally down in Kyushu, bagging 22 goals in 35 appearances for a mid-table side. Next season will surely see him in a Gamba shirt once more aiming to become the answer to our problematic finishing. It’s now or never for him as at 25 this is the perfect chance for him to light up Suita Stadium.

#22 Oh Jae-suk (FC Tokyo) – 29 – right/ left-back – Another popular member of the 2014 treble winning team who has gone out on loan this season, Jae-suk linked up with former coach Kenta Hasegawa and has nailed down the left-back spot as Tokyo search for their maiden J1 crown. Due to the way things have gone for him and the existing bond between he and Hasegawa, I’d say it’s pretty certain he’ll join the Gasmen permanently in the off-season.

#25 Jungo Fujimoto (Kyoto Sanga F.C.) – 35 – attacking midfielder – Famous for a couple of spectacular goals, some pretty passing and not a whole lot else at Gamba, in truth he was slightly over the hill before he joined us and now at 35 his career as a J1 player must surely be over. I’m sure he’ll have something to bring both on and off the field at a mid to lower table J2 team in 2020.

#28 Takahiro Ko (Renofa Yamaguchi FC) – 21 – central midfielder – Everyone else on Twitter seems to rate him more than me, he’s also been involved with the Japan U22 set-up so I’ll accept in this case that I’m the one in the wrong. Miyamoto made him captain of the U23’s last year and he was the first player he called into the J1 team after he was promoted so he clearly likes Ko. However, after some average results at the start of this campaign, a change of formation, the return of Ideguchi and the revival of Yajima saw him become surplus to requirements. Honestly, I don’t see him playing regularly for Gamba in 2020 so he may stay on at Yamaguchi next season. Due to the strong bond that’s developed between the clubs over the past couple of years, I wouldn’t mind if we could get Ryuho Kikuchi in exchange for Ko.

#– Ryota Suzuki (JEF United Chiba) – 25 – goalkeeper – Only managed 16 league appearances this season and was generally back-up to the error-prone Yuya Sato. If he comes back he’ll be way down the pecking order, he should probably join a J3 side and play regularly for the sake of his career.

#– Bae Soo-yong (Kamatamare Sanuki) – 21 – centre-back – Started off the season in the side, but now a bench warmer as Sanuki slip into the oblivion (they’re currently level on points with Gamba U23). He would take up a foreigner slot if he returned so I reckon he’ll either go to JFL or back to South Korea.

#– Kazunari Ichimi (Kyoto Sanga F.C.) – 22 – centre-forward – Like Goya, he’s done brilliantly, scoring 17 times in 35 matches for an over-performing Kyoto side. He’s more of a link up player compared to Goya who is more in the penalty box poacher mold, meaning than there should be room for both in Gamba’s J1 squad for 2020.

*Note – I didn’t include #38 Keito Nakamura as he’s on an 18-month loan at FC Twente – for what it’s worth I don’t see him coming back to J1 anytime soon.


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