I’d hoped to bring you news of Gamba wrapping up deals for up-and-coming defenders, Yusei Egawa (Nagasaki) and Riku Handa (Yamagata) in this post, but it appears those transfers are still at the ‘in the oven’ stage. The club are confirmed to be in negotiations with Tunisian international forward Issam Jebali, and anyone that Moneyball maestros FC Midtjylland are also courting has to have something about them. I’m also expecting news of Kosei Tani’s return, Jiro Nakamura and Isa Sakamoto’s loan departures, plus Dawhan and Mitsuki Saito penning permanent contracts with the Ao to Kuro to hit my desk in the coming days. However, I have family commitments from tomorrow, so I’ll go to press with a collection of general stories from the Gamba universe. I hope once again you enjoy the fruits of my labours and please also look forward to an upcoming appearance on the J-Talk Podcast that should be with you in the next few days. Please take care of yourselves and enjoy the remainder of 2022.
2023 KICK OFF EVENT – Gamba will get their season up and running on Monday 9 January (18:00 JST) with their annual launch event where the new signings and hopefully the new uniform (Hummel still tbc) will be unveiled. It’s likely that we’ll be able to hear from Daniel Poyatos for the first time since taking over as Nerazzurri kantoku at the curtain-raiser which will be shown on the club’s official YouTube channel. Additionally, it’s also been revealed that Gamba will head to Okinawa for a two-week training camp between 16 and 31 January prior to the season starting on the weekend of 18/19 February. This will take the place of the usual two separate camps, presumably to cut down on the risk of a Coronavirus outbreak within the squad as they all fly together to and from Okinawa.
RETURN – Gamba announced on 16 December that 21 year old winger Dai Tsukamoto will return to Suita next season following an injury-hit loan spell with J2 outfit Zweigen Kanazawa. Having missed the whole of 2022 with a serious knee injury, it’s believed that Gamba Youth graduate Tsukamoto still has at least a year left on his Nerazzurri contract, making a return to his parent club to complete his rehabilitation inevitable. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him get some minutes in the Levain Cup before heading out on loan again in the summer, possibly back to Kanazawa.
MORE LOANEE UPDATES – Buried in among the avalanche of posts about the J.League format changes from 2024 was the news that Yota Sato would return to Gamba following a half-season loan spell with Vegalta Sendai, while former youth team prodigy Shoji Toyama saw his temporary contract with Mito HollyHock extended for another year. Sato turned out 15 times in J2 for Sendai in 2022, but couldn’t halt their slide down the table which ultimately led to them missing out on the play-offs altogether. His return has drawn a mixed reaction from the Nerazzurri faithful with some pointing out that he may have grown during his spell in Miyagi, while others have suggested he’s not compatible with Poyatos’ brand of football. As with most things in life, we’ll get our answer in good time. Toyama initially struggled to find his feet at Mito, but ended the season with quite a bang, bagging 5 goals in his final 6 appearances of the year, which saw him end up with final stats of 5 strikes in 16 games, a figure which is more impressive if you consider he only started on 5 occasions. HollyHock’s main forward Kosuke Kinoshita (12 goals in 38 outings) recently moved to Kyoto to vie it out with Patric and Kazunari Ichimi for a starting spot, meaning the opportunity now exists in Mito for Toyama to stake his claim for regular football, let’s hope he grabs his chance with both hands.
NATIONAL TEAM CALL-UP – Current Gamba Youth forward and soon-to-be 2023 first-team member Harumi Minamino has been selected in the Japan Under-18 squad for the upcoming Ibaraki Next Generation Cup. Games will be held against Under-20, Under-22 and full adult sides on 22, 24 and 25 December respectively. Good luck to him, and let’s hope he represents Gamba Youth in a similar way to how a certain Ritsu Doan did recently in Qatar.
A BIG SHOUT OUT TO – Rihito Yamamoto, who went back to his hometown of Sagamihara in Kanagawa to visit local sports club FC Bande Plus, where he distributed a number of Gamba goods, spoke highly of life with the Nerazzurri and even found time to have a kick-about with local youngsters. It’s great to see him spreading the gospel behind enemy lines and he’s apparently definitely going to be on-board for the Ao to Kuro’s 2023 campaign.
AND FINALLY – Heartbreak for a number of Gamba supporters as the club announced the wedding of popular full-back, Ko ‘Prince’ Yanagisawa on Sunday 18 December. Honestly, when I saw his picture appear on my Twitter feed, I felt sure the post would be about him joining a J2 side, but upon further inspection it turned out to be far happier news for the former Gifu and Mito defender. All the best to him and his new wife!