TOKYO (AFP) - Former Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura has criticised his fellow countrymen as insular for staying at home and urged them to play abroad for their own good and to boost Japan's place in world football.
"Players really need to just get out of Japan and go and play overseas. They are too pampered in the environment they are in here," the midfield schemer told Kyodo news agency in an interview published Thursday.
"It would be great for the national team if there were 20 players overseas and 13 of them were getting called up for international duty," added the left-footed playmaker, known for his pinpoint passing and free-kicks.
Nakamura, 31, returned to his old J-League home Yokohama F. Marinos in February after completing only six months of a two-year deal with Espanyol, where he struggled to get a game, playing only 13 La Liga matches.
With the World Cup in South Africa fast approaching, Junichi Inamoto quit Rennes to join Kawasaki Frontale in January, while Shinji Ono signed with another J-League outfit, Shimizu S-Pulse, after leaving Bochum.
There are about 10 Japanese still plying their trade in Europe, including CSKA Moscow's Keisuke Honda, Makoto Hasebe of Wolfsburg and Grenoble's Daisuke Matsui -- all midfielders who have regularly worn the Blue Samurai shirt.
Japan coach Takeshi Okada has also started calling up Catania striker Takayuki Morimoto as the Asian champions, lacking firepower, face Cameroon, the Netherlands and Denmark in a tough World Cup group.
Nakamura, who started his seven-and-a-half-year stint in Europe at Italy's Reggiana and helped Celtic to the Scottish Premier League title three times, admitted the Spanish league was tough.
"I was only there for a short time but learned so many things. When you are professional, results are everything," he told Kyodo. "At the end of the day, I didn't get playing time simply because I couldn't make the cut."
But he said fear of not playing regularly should not stop other Japanese players following in his footsteps.
"Of course players are scared that if they go abroad and don't get picked then their national team chances will be in jeopardy," he said, "but if you really want to improve as a player then go and you will improve."
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