Shunsuke Nakamura is a Japanese professional footballer. He is the first and only person to have been named J.League Most Valuable Player more than once, receiving the award in 2000 and 2013. He is well known for his vision, touch, bending shots and free kick-taking abilities; Steve Perryman once remarked that Nakamura “could open a tin of beans with his left foot”. Nakamura began his professional career with J1 League club Yokohama Marinos in 1997, eventually making 338 league appearances during two spells at the club totaling just over twelve seasons. In between his spells at Marinos, Nakamura played in Europe with Espanyol, Celtic, and Reggina. During his time at Celtic, he became one of the best Asian players to have ever played in Europe; he was nominated for the 2007 Ballon d’Or, was named Scottish Player of the Year and SFWA Footballer of the Year in 2007, and became the first Japanese player to score in the UEFA Champions League. His team accomplishments at Celtic include winning the Scottish Premier League in 2006, 2007, and 2008, the Scottish League Cup in 2006 and 2009, and the Scottish Cup in 2007. Nakamura has 98 caps and 24 goals for the Japanese national football team, including appearances in the FIFA World Cup finals in 2006 and 2010 and winning the AFC Asian Cup in 2000 and 2004; he was named Most Valuable Player of the 2004 competition. He also appeared in the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship as a member of the Japanese Under-20 team and the 2000 Summer Olympics as a member of the Japanese Under-23 team.
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Nakamura had come to the attention of Reggina scouts after an international match against Honduras during the 2002 Kirin Cup in which Nakamura had a standout performance and scored two goals. Reggina gained promotion to Serie A after the 2001–02 season and had already been looking to sign a marquee player for some time. It is said that, on the day Reggina secured promotion, then-Chairman Pasquale Foti had already called the Marinos to inquire about a Nakamura transfer while Reggina’s players were still on the pitch celebrating. Expectations for Nakamura were very high; the prestigious number 10 shirt was even taken from teammate Francesco Cozza and given to Nakamura, and the club sold 25,000 Nakamura shirts in the first five months he was at the club. Nakamura responded by scoring in three consecutive matches early in the season; in league play, Nakamura finished the season with 32 appearances and tied for the team lead with 7 goals, helping Reggina narrowly avoid relegation (Reggina defeated Atalanta in the relegation playoff). Nakamura struggled with injuries in 2003 and was limited to just 18 appearances in the 2003–04 season (these injuries also caused him to miss a 2003 Confederations Cup game against Colombia and national team duty in November 2003). Additionally, Reggina underwent four managerial changes in just Nakamura’s first two years at the club; Walter Mazzarri, hired in the summer of 2004, would already be Nakamura’s fifth manager at Reggina. The frequent changes resulted in Nakamura mostly coming off the bench during the 2003–04 season and not fitting in well under Mazzarri in 2004–05 when Reggina only scored 36 goals in their entire league campaign, with Nakamura only managing to contribute two goals (although each came in crucial 1–0 league victories in a season where Reggina finished only 2 points clear of the relegation zone). Coupled with Reggina’s struggle to avoid relegation every season that he had been at the club, Nakamura became concerned he was regressing from top level football and decided it was time to move on.