Shoki Hirai becomes the next to join what looks to be a long line of players being released from their contract at the end of the season. The striker, who turns 26 next Wednesday, will end his relationship with Gamba that has lasted since 2003, bar an unhappy loan spell at Albirex Niigata in 2012.
He came back to Gamba this season knowing that he would be behind Leandro in the striking pecking order but took his first start against V-Varen Nagasaki well, netting twice. From 5 starts he netted 3 goals, adding one from the bench against FC Gifu at home. In recent times, he has been limited to short cameo appearances from the bench and has even fallen away from the 18 man squad all together. He appeared 17 this term but has been out of favour from the start.
He has definitely been out of Kenta Hasegawa’s plans but his poor attitude has not helped him. Seeing him leaving training without a smile, you could just tell he was not enjoying himself. I am sure he and Hasegawa will be glad to see the back of each other.
Since joining the top team in 2006, he mustered 103 appearances in all competitions for Gamba, scoring 31 goals. He has been mooted to be on the radar of Vissel Kobe but he could also head to Nagoya Grampus if Akira Nishino wants to be reunited with the forward. Wherever he goes, I wish him luck and hope he be successful there.
Photo taken from J’s Goal. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.