Ten appearances, seven starts, and an assist.
Ten appearances is all it took Japanese newcomer Kazuki Nagasawa to earn himself a contract extension with 1. FC Köln, which was announced Wednesday. The new arrangement added two years to the existing deal between the two parties, taking Nagasawa’s connection with the club through June 2018.
Ten appearances was enough to make the club believe they will need to see two more years of Nagasaway in the white and red.
That is, it took ten appearnces, if you believe the decision wasn’t made well before the season finale at FSV Frankfurt.
Nagasawa and his high-energy play won the acclaim of Effzeh fans almost immediately. It would seem that some front-office personnel were also quick to be impressed.
“Kazuki accustomed himself to German football more quickly than expected,” explained Jörg Jacobs in explaining how such a new player so quickly earned himself two new years on his existing contract with the club. “He is fully integrated into the team and delivered a valuable impact in the Rückrunde.”
“We believe that he has a lot more potential and are happy that we can continue to work together on developing it.”
After arriving in winter from Japan’s Senshu University, Nagasawa said his goal was to get into a match by the end of the season. That goal was met before the first 90 minutes of 2014 was completed, when Miso Brecko was substituted for more offensive push, and Nagasawa joined Bard Finne as debutantes in the 0:1 loss to SC Paderborn.
Finne grabbed more attention from the match, as the new striker had several close chances after entering the match at halftime.
Nagasawa would not again show himself until six match days later, when he again entered as a substitute in the 55th minute against VfR Aalen. By the time the final whistle blew on the scoreless draw, fans were already clamoring for the youngster to make his debut as a starter the next weekend.
Apparently, Peter Stöger saw things similarly, as Nagasawa made his debut as a starter in a big Monday night home match against Karlsruher SC and stayed in the starting squad for the following six matches.
It seems fairly evident that the game plan for Jörg Schmadtke is to bank on his young talent by signing them to long-term deals while they still have more upside than market value. Already this year, 20-year-old midfielder Yannick Gerhardt and 23-year-old left back Jonas Hector have also signed extensions with the Effzeh into 2018. 21-year-old Austrian center back Kevin Wimmer’s deal now runs into 2019, thanks to a February extension.
It’s certainly a tactic not without some risk, but the potential reward has a very high ceiling. The same could be said for the decision to gamble on Nagasawa. The early returns have clearly been good, and if his energy and attitude continue the way they appear right now, he could be catching notice on the Bundesliga stage a lot sooner than even the most-optimistic projections could have had back in January.
“I have felt comfortable in Köln from day one: in the club, in the team, and also in the city. The atmosphere and the fans are unique. The promotion was unforgettable,” said Nagasawa about his growing connection with the Effzeh and how he came to the decision to link himself with the club on a longer-term basis. “I believe that I can best continue my development with the FC and am very pleased that the coaching staff and the front office continue to depend on me.”
“I want to meet the challenge of the Bundesliga with the 1. FC Köln and will further engage myself to become an ambassador to Japan for the club and the city of Köln.”
Lest you doubt Nagasawa’s determination to do exactly what he says, take a moment to watch and hear his attempt at “Kölle Alaaf!” with German TV personality Stefan Raab accompanying on accordion. Assuming Nagasawa knew the bit would be appearing on television and would certainly be seen by most fans of the club, watch the enthusiasm with which he attempts a language clearly not his own.
Also, play the entire video and compare Nagasawa’s effort to that of his German teammates who have heard that song plenty of times. Sascha Bigalke seems almost embarrassed to be about to show his lack of knowledge of the lyrics. Patrick Helmes tries to fake it, but considering he grew up in the area . . . well, that’s not going to help much in the rebuilding of relationships with the locals still angry about that whole Leverkusen thing, is it Paddy?
But Nagasawa? See for yourself.
He is COMMITTED to the effort. You have to give him that.
And from what I’ve seen, it’s exactly how he has approached his playing time so far. The effort is full to the point where you cannot begrudge him for missing the odd note here or there, because you know he’s working hard on it, which simply has to eventually lead to success.
It’s just how it works.
You never know for sure with young players, but today I believe we Effzeh fans have reason to celebrate. Nagasawa is going to be fun to watch for a while. All the better to watch him doing what he does for the Rut un Wiess.