A huge coup has been pulled off by Gamba as Akihiro Ienaga (Midfielder, 26) has extended his loan at the club until 30/06/2013 in spite of having interest from Cerezo Osaka and Kashiwa Reysol.
This comes as an important piece of news for the club and fans alike as it was feared that relegation would send Ienaga either back to Mallorca (unlikely) or to rival teams. Being part of Gamba since 1999, although he had a loan spell at Cerezo, as well as Oita before heading to Spain, the player is where he belongs in my eyes and I am relieved to still have him; I am sure everyone else is too!
Aki made his first league appearance for Gamba in 2004 against Albirex Niigata and scored his first goal in that game too, the final score being 4-1 to Gamba. Although he failed to score a goal on 24 league games the following season, he was still part of the championship winning team on that dramatic day which saw Cerezo lose their grasp on the title with last-minute a goal from then-FC Tokyo player Yasuyuki Konno. In his first stint at the club before falling out with manager Akira Nishino, Aki played 132 games in all competitions and scored 10 goals.
He then spent three years on loan at Oita and then Cerezo before being snapped up by Mallorca. He struggled to get to grips with the language and the football, making 19 appearances and scoring two goals during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons before being loan to Ulsan Hyundai of the now named K-League Classic for the 2012 season. He found it tough there too, playing 14 games in all, scoring one goal.
He then came back to his club during the summer transfer window where things got off to a slow start, when he was mainly used as a substitute to begin with. With injuries to Sato, he got more time on the pitch. In the league, he scored five goals in twelve games as well as the winner against Cerezo in the Emperor’s Cup quarter-final to add to his tally. He averaged a goal every 3.33 games for the club, sometimes playing as a partner to Leandro.
The fear for the 2013 season is if Gamba cannot renew both the above players’ loans or cannot buy them, which will leave them short upfront. Their presence will help Hirai and Lee to step-up their game and I cannot wait to see Aki playing for us in 2013. As you can tell, I love you Aki, so please stay forever. Thank you also for your hard-work last season where we almost survived thanks to you and Leandro!