Sunday, July 31, 2005

Will Nakamura introduce Celtic to Asia?

"Amid the crush at Glasgow Airport, Shunsuke Nakamura could have been forgiven for feeling slightly suffocated. It is a condition he will probably have to get used to. Arriving with a £2.7m price tag is one thing. Being burdened with the role of saviour is something else", Glasgow's Sunday Herald reported.

"The Japanese playmaker stepped off his flight from Tokyo to find Celtic in crisis following their humiliating defeat in Slovakia. Gordon Strachan’s biggest summer signing now faces far from ideal circumstances to bed into an alien culture, let alone a new club."

Celtic has made it clear its expects him to deliver on the pitch rather than the balance sheet ... "He is here first and foremost for his footballing pedigree. However, the opportunities he will bring in terms of commercial spin-offs are of great interest,” said Peter Lawwell, Celtic's chief executive.

Given the gaggle of Japanese journalists at Parkhead for his unveiling on Friday, the commercial opportunities are clear. Like Shinji Ono at Feyenoord, Nakamura’s progress will be followed avidly back in his homeland. The Rotterdam club now have merchandising outlets across Japan and profit from television specials on Ono which are beamed back to his adoring fans.

“Celtic found the proverbial crock of gold when they convinced Nakamura and his agent to part with his image rights,” said Ken Matsushima, the editor of The Rising Sun News website which focuses on Japanese football. “Japanese fans take their football very seriously and they have plenty of money to plonk down on merchandise. Some of the hyperbole has been incredibly overheated, but Nakamura is a well-regarded internationalist with a strong fan following. Even if there are nine other Japanese players who attract equal merchandising attention, 10% of the market is still a huge pile of money,” he added.
According to the Sunday Herald, there is already talk of a Celtic tour to the Far East next summer and a link-up between Celtic TV and Sky/PerfecTV, an Asian satellite broadcaster.