The first severing of ties happened today as Brazilian pair Rocha (27, striker) and Paulinho (31, striker) have not been given contract renewals past the end of the season.
Whilst it does not particularly come as a shock, I am particularly said that Paulinho is leaving. Having met the man this year, I can tell you that he is one of the kindest and happiest people you will ever meet, let alone footballer. This season, he was restricted to just 8 league starts this season, coming off the bench 11 times and garnering a total of 851 minutes of game time until now. He netted 6 goals this season however: 2 v Gunma, 1 v Tokushima, 2 v Gifu and 1 v Tokyo Verdy. His performance against Tokushima Vortis sticks out as his best this season, scoring not only a belter but having a terrific match and setting up the second goal of the game. But being 31 years old and taking up a valuable spot for foreign players, added with the lack of game time he has got this year, partially due to injuries towards the end of the season, it makes sense to let him go.
This is what Paulinho had to say on his imminent departure:
Thank you so much for the two years I had at Gamba. We were unfortunately relegated last year but I am really happy that we were promoted this year. I am proud to have joined such a group of players. Thank you so much.
And I want to say thank you to Paulinho too. He made my time in Osaka an even happier one by being the kind man he is. I am sure he will be able to find a good team in Japan, in the lower half of J1 or a top J2 team. Wherever he goes, I will follow him to make sure he shows his ability. Thank you, Paulinho, for your hard work over these past two years. Continue to do your best at your next team.
Rocha came in only during the summer after the end of Leandro’s loan period. He initially had a superb effect on the team, scoring on his debut against Tokyo Verdy, and going on to ne 6 goals in his 4 next games. He then went 3 games without a goal but returned to form for a short time against Matsumoto Yamaga FC with another brace. Since then, he has picked up only 3 short sub appearances in 6 games without any goals.
The biggest problem for Rocha was his fitness and his play style. He is a player that will score if he is given the space to do so within the penalty area, otherwise he does nothing for the team. This means that he did not quite fit the mould that Gamba wants from its players. Additionally, he seems a little overweight which may have been detrimental to his time in Osaka. Saying all this however, scoring 9 goals in 12 appearances is no mean feat and I am sure his next team will acquire a good player if they play to his strengths. This is what the man himself had to say:
It is a shame that my contract will not be renewed and I have to leave. To the people involved, especially the supporters, I appreciate you from my heart. Japan is a wonderful country and myself and my family would be happy for me to play here again if I got the chance. It was a short time but thank you so much.
Thank you to Rocha for his goals, his wonderful chant and his hard work over the 4 months that he could play for Gamba. He will do well at a team that puts him as their number one striker, and I am sure there are some J.League teams that would do well to take him on if they can.
So with two foreign spots now free and Evson being on his way to Gamba apparently (I wait for official confirmation), Gamba will be looking to get 2 top quality foreigners in before the start of next season. One will most likely be a striker because we look a bit short on them now, but we can only wait and see.