We learnt about the news that none of us fans wanted to hear today, as Leandro and Akihiro Ienaga will not be staying at the club beyond the end of their loans, which end on the 30th June. Their final game will be against Tokushima Vortis at Banpaku. Brazilian striker Adi Rocha has been signed already to take over Leandro’s boots in what has been a hectic day for transfer news.
Let’s start with Leandro. We all knew that he wanted to stay with Gamba, stating that he was happy where he is with his family and he was enjoying his football at Banpaku. He returned to the club last summer following stints at Qatari sides Al-Sadd and Al-Rayyan. He was forced out of Al-Sadd after they signed Spanish giant Raul and he soon found comfort in his old employers.
During his time at Gamba for the second time, he scored an exception 28 goals in 36 games in all competitions but he was unable to save us from our inevitable drop from J1 last season. Gamba scored a total of 89 goals in all competitions during his yearlong stay at the club to date, scoring 24.92% of our goals in that time. His goal to game ratio comes in at 1 goal to every 1.29 games. He has been absolutely wonderful for us and to say we will miss him is an understatement. It will strange watching Gamba take on FC Gifu for the first time without him.
The question is where will he go now? Technically speaking he will have to go back to Al-Sadd, but that will more than likely be a brief stop (if a stop at all) before he heads on to a new team. Vissel Kobe are supposedly sniffing around, trying to lure him back to our rivals as they are favourites to land him on a loan deal. Teams like Cerezo Osaka, Nagoya Grampus and FC Tokyo, surely amongst others, are rumoured to be keeping an eye on the situation with the hope of stealing the forward.
All I can say is “Thank You” to Leandro for his goals, work rate, desire, passion and love for the club. It is a shame we could not keep you but you will stay in hearts of many fans for many years to come. Your smiling face after scoring will be the biggest loss.
It also comes with regret for me to write that Akihiro Ienaga will also be leaving the club after joining the club at the same time as Leandro did half-way through the 2012 season. He scored 7 goals in 35 games in all competitions, including a goal against the Pigs in the Emperor’s Cup last season. His only goal this season was a spectacular one at that, a volley against Consadole Sapporo in a 3-1 away win. We have often questioned his attitude this season as he is undoubtedly a top player who, on his day, could destroy any team. He came from Mallorca of Spain after a brief stop in South Korea, playing for Ulsan Hyundai, before he returned to his original club.
There will surely be a whole bunch of teams wanting his signature because there is no doubting his talent. Rumours have suggested a team in Australia has made him an offer as it is very unlikely that he will fit into Mallorca’s plans. Wherever he goes, he can definitely be a success if his heart is in it.
To Aki, you have dazzled us at times with your nonchalant touches, top goals but also frustrated us with your lacklustre performances and bad attitude. Nevertheless, we would rather you have stayed than left and in recent weeks you have been great. The only saving grace is that Takashi Usami will be home soon to fill the void you leave. Take care on your next adventure. Thank you!
Leandro and Ienaga will make their final bows as Gamba Osaka players against Tokushima Vortis at Banpaku on 29th June. I will fortunately be there and I might shed a tear or two in their final game. They still have 2 more matches to show us their best and sign-off on a high note. Fagiano Okayama and Tokushima Vortis should be quaking in their boots, given that Leandro and Ienaga will give us one final push on our path back home.
Joined with the news that Leandro and Ienaga would not be staying was the news that 27 year-old Brazilian striker Adi Rocha, full name Adi Rocha Sobrinho Filho, would be joining the team on a full transfer in what will be a like-for-like move that will cover Leandro’s departure and he will also probably take over the number 9 shirt. Rocha will join from Romanian Liga 1 side Steaua Bucharest.
He has spent the bulk of his professional career in Europe with stints in Austria, Germany and of course Romania. He spent the 2007-08 season at LASK Linz, scoring just 2 goals in 19 appearances, with most of his time being spent on the bench, forcing him to make a move to Austria Kärnten where he played in 16 league matches and he was able to net 10 goals, allowing his team to finish ahead of his former employers LASK. He then moved to Energie Cottbus during the winter transfer window of the same 2008-09 season and was there for 2 and a half seasons but only managed 1 appearance after suffering from a persistent cartilage injury which he picked up in his first game for the club.
He found his home in Romania with Concordia Chiajna in 2012 as he helped his new side finish 9th in their first season in the league via promotion, where Adi netted 8 goals in 15 appearances in the league. He started all of those 15 matches and looked to have gotten over his injury problems. His impressive play earned him a move to the other team in Bucharest, and big boys Steaua, where he followed his manager from Concordia to the eventual winners of Liga 1 in 2013. Adi started only 11 games adding to 5 substitute appearances, but managed to find the net 9 times. Being out of favour at the Champions of Romania meant that he let his contract run down and will now come to Osaka to find his place once more.
This must have been the back-up plan that Gamba had made if Leandro’s loan was either not extended or if his loan was not turned into a permanent move. Rocha’s contract was coming to an end at Steaua and this free transfer should be a worthwhile one. Nevertheless, you can look at our squad and see that we have more than enough options with Paulinho, Hirai, Kawanishi, Sato and Hoshihara all strikers, whilst Shu Kurata and Takashi Usami can easily be support strikers. The number 99 of Steaua will do well to succeed at Banpaku but with short videos on YouTube showing that he does have some speed, strength, height and an eye for goal, it might just be a top signing after all. Only time will tell.
Rocha can join training from Tuesday (18th June) which will give him time to get to know his future team-mates until 19th July, which will be the day he can finally join the squad rota, with his first match a potentially being the Kansai Derby against Kobe at Banpaku a day later. I am hoping that he can be a real success and make us almost forget Leandro. Welcome to Banpaku Adi, and ガンバってください！