After the last couple of attempts with Brazilian strikers Kashiwa Reysol fans could be forgiven for having reservations about new signing Cleo. The former Guangzhou Evergrande star is in a different class to either of his predecessors though…
“I’m aware that I have to score many goals. Within my play style – power, speed – I want to take control of that. I feel that strongly and need to look after my physical condition.”
Ultimately he failed, and less than six months after uttering these words at Kashiwa Reysol’s 2012 season-opening press conference Ricardo Lobo was shipped out on loan to JEF United after a dismal return of no goals in seven games. His replacement Neto Baiano wasn’t exactly an improvement, contributing just one goal in 11 games.
This year Nelsinho has brought in another Brazilian to try and boost Reysol’s striking options, and the jury is still out as to whether Cleo can fill his boots as thoroughly as Lobo did his kit.
The imposing frontman does come in with a slightly more impressive track record, and having scored fairly regularly for Guangzhou Evergrande in China – including in the Asian Champions League – the chances of the 27-year-old hitting his stride and not Row Z are higher than they were for either of his recent predecessor’s.
Even so, the imposing frontman admitted after his new side’s 1-0 defeat to Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the Super Cup that he will need a little time to adapt to the J.League.
“I have [had] some meetings with [Nelsinho] and he told me what he wants from me and I’ll try everything for the team. But in the beginning it’s normal, it’s very difficult. You come to a new club, new players, this is normal and I think in the next few weeks we will be better.”
A change in formation, with the arrival of Daisuke Suzuki encouraging Nelsinho to try a back three, undoubtedly had an impact on the effectiveness of the team going forward as they adjusted to the new shape, and while a failure to register in either the Super Cup or annual Chibagin match against JEF United caused some concern, Cleo insisted that things would come together.
“Yes the two games we don’t score any goals but we don’t have many chances to score the goals. This is the problem. But we are training to score and to make opportunities for the forwards and we’ll do our best in the next games to make goals.”
Questions were asked of Nelsinho as to why Junya Tanaka – who’s entrance in place of Cleo against Sanfrecce undoubtedly injected some vibrancy into the attack – was not preferred from the start, but Cleo insists he knows what is required of him.
“To pressure the defenders, and to try to move. [Nelsinho] knows I’m not 100% yet. But everything he tells me I try to do on the field. It’s easy, it’s move and wait for the opportunity to score the goals.
“This is my job to score the goals. Today I didn’t have any opportunities to score. The game was very hard today. But my speciality is to score goals. If I have the chance to score I must score goals. This is my first job.”
There can be no argument about that, and although Tanaka is a very talented player who, let’s not forget, was not so long ago involved with the full national team, he only found the net five times in 31 appearances last year, and Reysol’s top scorer Masato Kudo led the way with a relatively modest 13. After him came midfielders Leandro Domingues with 10 and Jorge Wagner with seven, and it is clear that another striker needs to step up and be counted.
Wagner believes that his compatriot can be that man.
“He’s a good player, you can tell that from watching him in training,” he told me ahead of the season. “Because he was away from playing he is working hard to regain confidence and a process of adaptation is necessary but I think he has the ability to overcome that. His distinctive characteristic is that he is a threat in front of goal. He will become important for the team, I think. I think he is a player who will score the goals the team needs.”
Kashiwa’s fans will certainly hope so. I’ll be keeping a close eye on his progress too, as last week I tipped him to be this year’s top scorer.