Kengo Nakamura

Kengo Nakamura (中村 憲剛, Nakamura Kengo, born 31 October 1980) is a Japanese retired professional footballer who played as a midfielder. A one-club man, Nakamura signed with Kawasaki Frontale in 2003 and helped the then J2 outfit earn promotion back to the top flight in 2004, and became a fixture in the ambitious Frontale side that finished second in the J1 League in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

Kengo Nakamura
中村 憲剛
Nakamura Kengo.jpg
Nakamura with Kawasaki Frontale in 2016
Personal information
Full name Kengo Nakamura
Date of birth (1980-10-31) 31 October 1980 (age 40)
Place of birth Kodaira, Tokyo, Japan
Height 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Position(s) Midfielder
Youth career
1996–1998 Kurume High School
1999–2002 Chuo University
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2003–2020 Kawasaki Frontale 546 (83)
National team
2006–2013 Japan 68 (6)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 25 August 2020

He was named club captain for the first time in 2012, and in the same season lead the league in assists with 13. In 2016, at the age of 36, Nakamura was named both J League MVP and Japanese Footballer of the Year, becoming the oldest recipient of either award. The following season, he was a part of the Kawasaki side that won the J1 League for the first time in the club's history. He would win two more J1 League titles in 2018 and 2020, as well as a domestic double of the Japanese Super and J League Cups in 2019 before retiring at the end of the 2020 season after 17 years and over 500 appearances for the club.

Nakamura was first selected for the Japan national team in 2006 under Ivica Osim and earned his first cap on October 4 in a 1-0 friendly win against Ghana. He scored his first international goal one week later in a 3-0 win over India, and represented his country at the 2007 AFC Asian Cup. After battling through injury, he was named in the Japan squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, making one substitute appearance as the side reached the round of 16. In total, Nakamura earned 68 caps and scored 6 goals during an 8 year international career.

He is Matsuzaka Generation.


Youth careerEdit

Nakamura was born in Kodaira, Tokyo and began playing football in the first grade, joining the Fuchu Boys' Soccer Club in nearby Fuchu. Nakamura played in many tournaments during his youth career, including the 1989 All Japan Youth Soccer Tournament, where Fuchu reached the round of 16, and the 8th Tokyo Boys' Selection Soccer Tournament, where he was named as one of the 10 best players. He continued to play into his teens, and, after graduating from Kurume High School, he enrolled in Chuo University, studying English and American literature whilst also playing for the university football team. In his third year, he became a regular fixture in the squad, despite the team performing poorly, finishing last in the Kanto University League 1st Division and suffering relegation to the 2nd Division. The following year, Nakamura was named club captain and led Chuō to win the 2nd Division, earning promotion back to the top league at the first time of asking. Nakamura graduated from Chuō in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Kawasaki Frontale (2003–2020)Edit

Early years and promotion (2003–2005)Edit

Nakamura's work as club captain at Chuō had attracted attention from J League scouts, and he was invited for a trial by Kawasaki Frontale of the Second Division shortly after graduation. He impressed and was signed to a professional contract in early 2003. He made his first appearance on the opening day of the 2003 Division 2 season against Sanfrecce Hiroshima, coming on in the 88th minute to replace Takehito Shigehara. He scored his first professional goal on April 9, the last in a 5-1 drubbing of Montedio Yamagata.[1] In his first season, Nakamura made 34 league appearances and scored four goals, as well as another two in the 2003 Emperor's Cup.

After playing much of his first season as an aggressive box-to-box midfielder, manager Takashi Sekizuka began switching Nakamura to the role of a playmaker in 2004, a move Nakamura credited as a turning point in his career. Nakamura made 41 appearances and scored 5 times as he cemented himself as a regular starter and Frontale won the league and earned promotion back to the top flight for the first time since 2000. Continuing to play as a starter, Nakamura's first season in the First Division was a modest success, making 29 appearances and scoring 2 goals as Frontale managed to safely avoid any threat of relegation with an 8th place finish. A respectable performance in the Emperor's Cup was marked by a 3-2 victory over reigning First Division Champions Yokohama F. Marinos on December 10, 2005, with Nakamura scoring the winner in the 97th minute of extra time to take Frontale to the quarter finals, where they were knocked out by eventual winners, Urawa Red Diamonds.

Title contention (2006–2009)Edit

The 2006 season was seen as a breakthrough for both Nakamura and Frontale as a whole, as the team looked to expand on their 8th place finish the previous campaign. Nakamura continued to hold down his starting place in central midfield, scoring 10 goals as the ambitious Frontale became serious challengers for their first ever First Division trophy. Despite falling short to Urawa Red Diamonds and finishing second, the 2006 season was seen as one of many positives for the side and considered to be Nakamura's best yet, as he scored 10 goals from midfield and was named in the J League Best XI along with teammate Hiroyuki Taniguchi, marking the first time any Frontale players had been included. The 2007 season was less successful and saw Frontale's league form take a dip, as they finished fifth and seven points behind fourth place Shimizu S-Pulse. Their league form was however contrasted by a successful Nabisco Cup run to the final, with Nakamura playing in both the semi and eventual final on March 11, where they lost to Gamba Osaka.

A rejuvenated Frontale bounced back to make another strong challenge for the First Division title in 2008, with Nakamura once again in a pivotal role as their midfield playmaker, providing 11 assists and four goals from midfield as Frontale went head to head with Kashima Antlers in the top two spots. It would however be another year of disappointment, as they missed out on winning the league by just 3 points. By 2009, Frontale were perennial title challengers as they looked to stop Kashima Antlers from winning a historic three First Divisions in a row. In another closely contended title race, Frontale were once again narrowly beaten by the Antlers, losing out on the first place by just two points. Nakamura enjoyed his most prolific season as a playmaker yet, providing 11 assists and 4 goals, as well as being part of the team that reached the final of the 2009 Nabisco Cup, earning a big quarter final win over Kashima on the way to the final, where they were defeated by F.C. Tokyo.

Injury and international recognition (2010–2012)Edit

By 2009, Nakamura was considered as Frontale's best known and most popular player, and despite making the J League Best XI three years in a row, was widely seen as one of the most underrated players in the First Division.[2] Nakamura's consistent performances for club and country eventually attracted attention from overseas clubs, with Dutch club PSV Eindhoven making an offer for him in late 2009; Nakamura respectfully declined, citing feelings of debt toward Frontale as the club who took a chance on him and gave him the opportunity to become a professional.[3] Nakamura was injured during an AFC Champions League game against Seongnam Ilhwa on February 23, 2010, suffering a Mandibular fracture, casting doubt over his eligibility for selection in the upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup; Nakamura was however able to make a speedy recovery and was named in Japan's squad, but only made one substitute appearance as Japan were knocked out in the round of 16.[4]

Club captain (2012–2017)Edit

At the start of the 2012 J1 season, Nakamura was named captain of Frontale for the first time ever, and arguably enjoyed his best season to date, scoring 5 goals and leading the league in assists with 13. The following season saw him placed in a prolific three man attacking partnership with new signings Yoshito Ōkubo and Renatinho, with Nakamura providing 7 goals and 8 assists as Frontale earned a return to the AFC Champions League for the first time in three years. The 2014 and 2015 seasons were less successful for both club and individual, as Nakamura suffered an ankle injury which would require surgery and caused him to miss the end of the 2014 season. Before his absence, however, Nakamura remained a highlight of the squad as he once again lead the league in assists with 14, and performed well again after his return from surgery in 2015, recording 8 more assists.

The 2016 season was widely seen as the best of Nakamura's career, as he provided 10 assists and scored 9 goals whilst captaining Frontale to a second place finish in the J1, the final of the 2016 Emperor's Cup and taking them through to the J1 Championship stage, where they lost in the semi-finals to third place Kashima Antlers. Despite this, Nakamura's efforts were recognised as he was named both J League MVP and Japanese Footballer of the Year, becoming the oldest recipient of either award at the age of 36.

Final successes and retirement (2017–2020)Edit

At the beginning of the 2017 season, Nakamura gave up the captain's armband, with striker Yu Kobayashi chosen as his replacement. He would however remain a pivotal part of the squad with 6 goals and 12 assists throughout the season. Nakamura's efforts were finally rewarded at the end of the 2017 season, when, after 11 years of trying and three runner-up medals, Frontale won the J1 League for the first time in club history, finally beating longtime title rivals Kashima Antlers on goal difference on the final day of the season. Frontale would become back to back champions the following year, with Nakamura once again featuring heavily with 6 goals and 6 assists. The 2019 season would see him sidelined with two separate injuries, however, he was present for both the Japanese Super Cup and J League Cup finals, scoring a penalty in the latter as Frontale did the domestic double and won both.

Shortly after Frontale won the J League Cup, Nakamura announced he would require knee surgery, which he underwent successfully in November, after which he would require seven months of rehabilitation. Nakamura made his return on August 29, 2020, scoring as Frontale defeated Shimizu S-Pulse in a resounding 5-0 victory.[5] On October 31, his 40th birthday, he scored the winning goal as Frontale extended their unbeaten run to defeat F.C. Tokyo 2-1.[6] A day later, Nakamura announced his intention to retire from the professional game at the end of the season.[7] After winning one more J1 League trophy with Frontale, Nakamura's retirement ceremony was held on December 21, 2020.[8] He remained with Frontale after retirement, and currently works as the club's relations organiser while also occasionally pitching in as a member of the coaching staff.[9][10]

Playing styleEdit

Nakamura began his career as a central box-to-box midfielder, but was converted to the role of a playmaker during his second season at Frontale under Takashi Sekizuka, a move he credited as a turning point in his career. He was recognised as a highly efficient passer of the ball, regularly topping the J League for assists throughout his career, as well as being a consistent goal threat and an adept dribbler with determination and strength, despite his relatively small size.[11][12] His ability on set-pieces has also been praised, both free kicks and penalties.[13]

Club statisticsEdit

As of 27 December 2020[14][15]
Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Other Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Japan League Emperor's Cup J.League Cup AFC Other Total
2003 Kawasaki Frontale J2 League 34 4 3 2 - - - 37 6
2004 41 5 3 0 - - - 44 5
2005 J1 League 29 2 3 1 6 2 - - 38 5
2006 34 10 2 1 10 3 - - 46 14
2007 30 4 4 0 3 0 7 3 - 44 7
2008 34 4 1 0 1 0 - - 36 4
2009 32 4 1 0 3 0 9 3 - 45 7
2010 27 4 1 0 3 1 3 0 - 34 5
2011 30 4 1 0 2 0 - - 33 4
2012 34 5 1 0 2 0 - - 37 5
2013 29 7 2 0 5 2 - - 36 9
2014 30 3 0 0 2 0 8 2 - 40 5
2015 33 2 3 0 6 0 0 0 - 42 2
2016 31 9 4 0 2 0 0 0 1[a] 0 38 9
2017 32 6 2 0 4 0 9 1 - 47 7
2018 33 6 2 0 2 0 2 0 1[b] 0 40 6
2019 20 2 2 0 2 0 3 0 1[b] 0 28 2
2020 13 2 0 0 0 0 - - 13 2
Career total 546 83 35 4 53 8 41 9 3 0 678 104
  1. ^ Appearances in the J.League Championship
  2. ^ a b Appearances in the Japanese Super Cup

National team statisticsEdit


Japan national team
Year Apps Goals
2006 3 1
2007 13 0
2008 13 2
2009 12 2
2010 11 0
2011 4 1
2012 7 0
2013 5 0
Total 68 6

National team career statisticsEdit

Appearances in major competitionsEdit

Team Competition Category Appearances Goals Team Record
Start Sub
  Japan 2007 AFC Asian Cup qualification Senior 2 0 1 Qualified
  Japan 2007 AFC Asian Cup Senior 6 0 0 4th Place
  Japan 2008 East Asian Football Championship Senior 2 0 0 Runners-Up
  Japan 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification Senior 5 2 2 Qualified
  Japan 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualification Senior 2 0 0 Qualified
  Japan 2010 FIFA World Cup Senior 0 1 0 Round of 16
  Japan 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification Senior 1 0 1

Goals for senior national teamEdit

# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 11 October 2006 Bangalore, India   India 3–0 Won 2007 AFC Asian Cup qualification
2. 14 June 2008 Bangkok, Thailand   Thailand 3–0 Won 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
3. 6 September 2008 Riffa, Bahrain   Bahrain 3–2 Won 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
4. 31 May 2009 Tokyo, Japan   Belgium 4–0 Won Friendly Match
5. 9 September 2009 Utrecht, Netherlands   Ghana 4–3 Won Friendly Match
6. 11 October 2011 Osaka, Japan   Tajikistan 8–0 Won 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification



Kawasaki Frontale



  1. ^ "J. League Data Site".
  2. ^ "Nakamura in running for ACL's top player honor". 22 August 2009.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Nakamura suffers broken jaw".
  5. ^ "Frontale smashes S-Pulse as Kengo Nakamura scores in return". 29 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Birthday boy Kengo Nakamura sends Kawasaki past Tokyo". 31 October 2020.
  7. ^ "Japanese soccer legend Kengo Nakamura to retire". November 2020.
  8. ^ "Football: Kawasaki Frontale crowned champions after 5-0 win over Gamba".
  9. ^ "Login • Instagram".
  10. ^ "Login • Instagram".
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Japanese soccer legend Kengo Nakamura to retire". November 2020.
  13. ^ "Japanese soccer legend Kengo Nakamura to retire". November 2020.
  14. ^ Nippon Sports Kikaku Publishing inc./日本スポーツ企画出版社, "J1&J2&J3選手名鑑ハンディ版 2018 (NSK MOOK)", 7 February 2018, Japan, ISBN 978-4905411529 (p. 10 out of 289)
  15. ^ Nippon Sports Kikaku Publishing inc./日本スポーツ企画出版社, "2017 J1&J2&J3選手名鑑 (NSK MOOK)", 8 February 2017, Japan, ISBN 978-4905411420 (p. 26 out of 289)
  16. ^ Japan National Football Team Database

External linksEdit