HIDETOSHI NAKATALegendary Japan Footballer
- Date of Birth
- January 22, 1977
- Place of Birth
- Kofu, Yamanashi, Japan
- 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
- Playing Position
Hidetoshi Nakata, Cavaliere OSSI (中田 英寿 Nakata Hidetoshi?, born January 22, 1977 in Yamanashi Prefecture), is a retired Japanese football player who played as a midfielder. He is widely considered to be one of the most famous Asian footballers of his generation, and one of the greatest Japanese players of all time.
Nakata began his professional career in 1995 and won the Asian Football Confederation Player of the Year award in 1997 and 1998, the Scudetto with A.S. Roma in 2001, played for Japan in three FIFA World Cup tournaments (1998, 2002 and 2006) and competed in the Olympics twice (1996 and 2000). In 2005, he was made the Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, one of Italy’s highest honors, for improving the country’s image overseas. Nakata has also been involved in fashion, regularly attending runway shows and wearing designer clothing.
Nakata announced his retirement at age 29 on July 3, 2006 after a ten-year career that included seven seasons in the Italian Serie A and a season in the English Premier League. In March 2004, Pelé named Nakata in his FIFA 100, a list of the top living footballers at the time. Nakata was the only Japanese, and one of only two Asian footballers (the other being Korean defender Hong Myung-Bo) to be named on the list.
Nakata began his professional career at age 18 in 1995, with J. League side Bellmare Hiratsuka (now Shonan Bellmare). After the 1998 World Cup in France, Nakata was signed by A.C. Perugia in Italy’s Serie A for 4M US$, becoming the second Japanese player ever to appear in the Italian top league after Kazu Miura had done it for Genoa four years earlier. In his first season in Italy, Nakata scored 10 goals, his single-season highest total.
In January 2000, after one and a half seasons at Perugia, Nakata moved to Roma for 42 Billion ITL (€21.691 million) helping the team win the scudetto. The highlight of Nakata’s career at Roma came on May 6, 2001 in the Serie A match against Juventus at Stadio Delle Alpi. After replacing Francesco Totti in the second half with Roma trailing 0–2, Nakata netted with a 30-yard goal beyond Juventus goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar’s reach, with 11 minutes left in the match. He then helped Roma score the equalizer when his fierce drive from outside the box was parried by Van der Sar into the path of Vincenzo Montella, who scored for Roma in the last minute. The match ended with a 2–2 draw and Roma maintained a six-point margin atop the league table.