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 By Paul Murphy

Albirex Niigata (S) captain Kento Nagasaki moves to Thai Honda

Jason Dasey and John Wilkinson discuss the new rule that will make S.League sides more youthful and examine the future of the national team.

Albirex Niigata (S) skipper Kento Nagasaki has decided to quit the S.League champions and head for a fresh challenge in Thai League 2 (T2) by joining recently relegated Thai Honda.

The midfielder has been a key member of the Albirex side who have dominated Singapore football for the last two years, winning consecutive domestic quadruples.

In contrast, at Thai Honda, he is moving to a club that dropped into T2 after just one season in the top tier, finishing 16th in the 18-team division despite a remarkable home-and-away double over Muang Thong United.

Thai Honda will hope that Nagasaki can help lift them straight back into T1, but they will have their work cut out with several T2 teams investing heavily in experienced players.

However, the 27-year-old is nevertheless relishing the opportunity to follow Singapore goalkeepers Hassan Sunny and Izwan Mahbud to Thailand. He will face both men in T2 in 2018, with Hassan at Army United and Izwan at Nongbua Pitchaya.

"The move to play in the Thai league is a new challenge for me," Nagasaki said, as reported on the Thai Honda website.

"I have kept track of Thai football for a long time and I know that it has developed very quickly. From now on, I will try my best to bring success to Thai Honda. "

Nagasaki spent five years at S.League invitees Albirex (S) as they steadily became a force to be reckoned with and ultimately the best side in the country.

He had perhaps his finest season in 2017, scoring 11 league goals and 17 in all competitions as Albirex swept all before them.

Albirex win 2017 Singapore Cup
With Kento Nagasaki as captain, Albirex won a quadruple of trophies in 2017.

Nagasaki was on target in the Singapore Cup final as the Japanese side overcame another invitee, Global-Cebu of the Philippines, after a penalty shootout.

At the end of November, his efforts were rewarded when he pipped Home United's Faris Ramli for the 2017 Player of the Year award.

Alibirex will now have to do without their talisman as they seek to win their third straight S.League title in 2018.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

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