Sef Vergoossen is certain his gaggle of talented young Nagoya Grampus Eight players will have a major impact on the J. League title race — but not for another season or two.
The Dutch coach says he has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to players 25 or under, with the likes of Keita Sugimoto coming in for special praise.
“Yes, especially Keita Sugimoto, our striker,” said Vergoossen in a recent interview, when asked who stood out as the best of a bright bunch.
“He’s fast, he’s got an extremely good mentality, he knows his qualities, he knows his weaknesses, but more and more he is growing stronger technically.
“Defensively he helps everywhere on the pitch, but we want him to stay forward, not to run so far back.
“His position is excellent when he is up front and more and more he knows exactly offensively where he should be.
“Sometimes he’s inside and sometimes he stands completely on the outside and that is very difficult to defend against.”
The 24-year-old Sugimoto ended last season as Nagoya’s second top scorer with eight goals behind Norwegian striker Frode Johnsen, who scored 10 goals in just 17 games after arriving midseason.
Goals were in scarce supply for a team which won only two of its first 14 matches in a nightmare start which triggered talk of relegation before Nagoya recovered to finish in seventh place.
Sugimoto will be hoping to improve his strike rate to something approaching Johnsen’s, and will ably served this season by another Vergoossen favorite — 23-year-old midfielder Kei Yamaguchi.
“I am very happy with Yamaguchi, who is excellent in the midfield to balance our team offensively and defensively,” said Vergoossen.
Vergoossen, a coach in Holland, Belgium and United Arab Emirates before taking over at Nagoya before the 2006 season, also singled out Japan Under-22 midfielder Keisuke Honda, defender Shohei Abe and midfielder Keiji Watanabe for special praise.
“This is excellent for Nagoya in building up a new team,” said Vergoossen.
“But the players will be even better the following season than in 2007.”
“The most important thing is that it will take time to get to the top of the table.
“When you have a lot of money, good scouting and a little bit of luck you can make the step in a year, but we know it will take two or three years to make this step.”