We got some great news today as we signed 27 year-old goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi from Albirex Niigata on a permanent contract having spent five years at his now former club. He comes in to fill the easily forgettable void that Yosuke Fujigaya left after he was released a few weeks ago. Gamba apparently paid 100 million yen (approx £600,000) for Higashiguchi who will be on a wage of 50 million yen a year (approx £300,000).
Higashiguchi is deemed as one of the best Japanese goalkeepers in the country and has been called-up to the national side although he never made it off the bench. He suffered a tough injury last season which kept him out for 9 months – he has since played in every game after his return from that lay-off. He achieved 5 clean sheets in a rather progressive season for Albirex who dropped their strong defensive approach that gained them 11 clean sheets last season with Masaaki in goal from 24 starts. That injury is a concern for fans but hopefully that has passed by now.
Although Higashiguchi’s first professional team was Albirex, he does have a history with Gamba as he was part of the Junior Youth side between 1999-2001 – it makes sense when he is a Takatsuki local – before moving on to a high school team, Fukui Technology University before landing in Niigata at the University of Management. After 12 years, he is back home, and we love it!
We could not have got a better replacement and entirely superb improvement on Fujigaya. Masaaki should become our number 1 immediately and is the second man in after Evson. The promised reinforcements have been great so far and Higashiguchi is a fine goalkeeper who can only improve. Whether moving from a promising Albirex team is the right decision will be determined by what he achieves with us. I welcome you to Banpaku once more Masaaki, and allow us to forget Fujigaya.