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Former Japan and Celtic star Nakamura to retire at 44

Former Japan international and Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura will retire from football at the end of the season, his club said on Tuesday, bringing the curtain down on his 26-year career. 

The 44-year-old midfielder was a Scottish champion three times and played at two World Cups.

“In my long football career I have had many struggles and setbacks, but there was always someone who supported me and pushed me forward,” Nakamura said in a statement released by Yokohama FC.

“I was able to fight as a football player because I had so much support,” he said.

Nakamura did not give any details on the decision to retire, but local sports papers cited injuries to his right ankle.

Famed for his lethal set-piece deliveries with his left foot, he is still fondly remembered in Glasgow for a stunning free-kick that helped Celtic beat Manchester United in the Champions League in 2006.

After four years with Celtic he briefly joined Espanyol in 2009, before moving back to his old J-League side Yokohama F. Marinos.

Nakamura is credited with helping pave the way for Japanese players in Europe and Celtic currently have four Japanese players.

He played for Japan 98 times, scoring 24 goals.

“It has been 40 years since I started kicking a football in kindergarten,” said Nakamura.

“At first I started football just for fun. But it became my job and I was able to spent 26 years as a professional player.”

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