The first Japanese player ever to score a Champions League goal will be sorely missed by Celtic fans. The man they call Naka lit up Celtic Park for four seasons with his elegance in midfield and devastating dead-ball skills.
Scorer of some of the most important and impressive goals in the Bhoys' illustrious history, the precociously talented Nakamura was a favourite of fans and managers alike.
Despite looking like a strong gust of wind might blow him over, Nakamura’s slight build was complemented by the heart of a lion and the patience of a saint. Time and again he was singled out for special attention by the hard men of the Scottish Premier League and he got more of his fair share of knocks.
But despite the provocation Naka just got on with it, never being intimidated or tricked into retaliation. His former boss at Celtic, Gordon Strachan was fulsome in his praise of the gifted midfielder’s temperament.
It is impossible to talk about Nakamura without concentrating on his free-kicks. His deadly left foot has an almost magical ability lift balls up an over the wall and into the top corner. One of his finest efforts for Celtic came when his side needed it most.
Facing exit at from the Champions League, the Bhoys desperately needed a win over Manchester United at Celtic Park. With just ten minutes to go and Celtic heading out of Europe, Nakamura stepped up, 30 yards from Edwin Van der Sar’s goal and arced the ball over United’s defensive wall and under the crossbar to give Celtic the goal they needed to advance to the knockout stage of the competition for the first time in their history.
The same season he secured the title with another stunning late free-kick against Kilmarnock. These heroics won him every SPL player of the season award going and confirmed what a fantastic asset he was to Scottish football. He won three league titles in his four years at Celtic Park and left the club for Espanyol in June 2009 with the best wishes of all the Celtic fans.
He has won over 80 caps for the Japanese national team and remains a superstar in his homeland, where he plans to return to end his career with his former club, Yokohama Marinos.