Forlan set for next challenge in Japan
Feb. 12, 2014
OSAKA, Japan (AP) — Uruguay forward Diego Forlan says he had no hesitation about taking his career to Japan where he will become the most high-profile player in the J-League in years.
The 34-year-old Forlan was introduced on Wednesday as the newest member of Cerezo Osaka, the latest stop in a career including stints at Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid.
Osaka declined to reveal the financial terms of the deal but Japanese media reported it was $5.8 million for the 2014 season, a record for the J-League.
Forlan will join compatriot Luis Suarez this summer when Uruguay plays England, Costa Rica and Italy in Group D at the World Cup but said he wasn't concerned the switch to Osaka will interfere with his preparations for Brazil.
"I'm not worried about that at all," Forlan said at a news conference. "The level of football here is very high from both a technical and physical standpoint so if anything, I think this will be good preparation for the World Cup."
Forlan has already played for club teams in six different countries so moving to Japan shouldn't be too daunting.
More than 1,000 Osaka fans greeted Forlan at the team's home stadium on Wednesday, an indication of the excitement his signing has generated.
"I've never received such a reception," Forlan said. "This is my third time to visit Japan and I am always impressed by the level of respect people are given here."
Osaka finished fourth in the 18-team J-League last season and is hoping a striker of Forlan's caliber can help the team win its first title. Serbian Ranko Popovic, who previously managed J-League clubs Oita Trinita and FC Tokyo, was brought in to be the manager for this year.
Forlan scored 10 goals in 34 games last season for Brazilian club Internacional and has an impressive career representing his country.
He was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player of the 2010 World Cup and was joint top-scorer with five goals, bringing his international total to 36 since his World Cup debut in 2002.
The signing of Forlan is a change for the J-League of late. When the league started in Japan's bubble economy, teams spent lavishly on imports such as Gary Lineker, Zico, Pierre Littbarski and Dunga.
But with a downturn in the economy and lagging attendance, clubs have been forced to scale back in recent years.