J1 League veterans Kashima Antlers on Wednesday announced the return of defender Atsuto Uchida, after a nearly eight year absence from the club.
Uchida’s career with the club began in 2006, when he became their starting right back at the age of 17. He was a significant contributor to their unprecedented tri-peat of J1 championships between 2007 and 2009 in addition to the 2007 Emperor’s Cup.
The Shizuoka native was one of a number of Japanese players who left for Europe following the 2010 FIFA World Cup, in which Japan excited the Round of 16 following a penalty kick loss to Paraguay. His destination was Schalke, where he contributed to their 2010-11 DFB-Pokal title and was named to two consecutive Bundesliga Team of the Seasons.
Since the end of 2014 he has rarely been seen on the pitch due to a series of knee and hamstring injuries. The move likely represents a last chance for Uchida, who has largely been out of the national team picture since the 2014 FIFA World Cup, to fight his way onto Vahid Halilhodzic’s squad for Russia.
“Since I left for Schalke in 2010 I always thought I wanted to play in Kashima again and I’ve continued to support Antlers while I was in Germany,” Uchida said in a statement published to Antlers’ official website. “I believe I have an understanding of how to conduct myself as a player at a legendary club. With my former teammate and mentor Go Oiwa as our manager I want to do my best.”
While the 2018 J1 League season is scheduled to open on February 24, Antlers’ campaign will start two weeks earlier when they host Shanghai Shenhua in the first match of the 2018 AFC Champions League.