After not having had his contract renewed by Gamba for the 2013 season, Hayato Sasaki (Midfielder, 30) has officially joined 2012 J1 runners-up Vegalta Sendai, allowing him to move back to his home prefecture of Miyagi.
Sasaki joined Gamba from J2 club Montedio Yamagata in 2008 where he made a total of 124 appearances and scored 10 goals in three seasons. He moved to Gamba and won the ACL, Emperor’s Cup and Pan-Pacific Championship titles in his first season.
Hayato was used primarily as a substitute for Gamba during his five-year period at the club. This is shown by amassing just 3,026 minutes of playing time he got in the league from 2009. Added with just 21 starts in that period out of the 91 appearances and you get to see the problem (I do not have data for the 2008 season). Under Akira Nishino, he was famous for being introduced around the 65th minute to attack tiring defences. Nevertheless, he scored eight goals with a total of 17 goals (inc. ACL) in 165 games for the club which is pretty good considering the lack of starts he got.
At age 30, this move seems wise for both him and Gamba. Last season was the first time he went goalless and his experience will be extremely important for Sendai if they want to be competitive in both the league and ACL this season. Although he might not have as much pace as he used to, he will still be a figurehead in that Sendai team. His message to Gamba upon his departure was: “I hope to play against Gamba in J1 again so please make sure to gain promotion this year.” (Thanks to Vinci Per Osaka).
We all hope to see Hayato back at Banpaku in J1 as well as getting some starts under his belt which should be doable considering the amount of games that Sendai will have next season. Thank you for your work at Gamba, Hayato, and we will definitely see you soon!