Ex-Celtic ace Shunsuke Nakamura facing heartbreaking end to playing career

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Celtic legend Shunsuke Nakamura could call time on his playing career this Saturday - if current side Jubilo Iwata are relegated to the Japanese second tier.

Still going strong at 40 years of age, “Naka” has played 16 times for Jubilo, who finished 16th in the J1 League on goal difference.

Shunsuke Nakamura is still playing at the age of 40 - but if current side Jubilo Iwata lose on Saturday, he could bring the curtain down on his career. File picture: Getty Images

Shunsuke Nakamura is still playing at the age of 40 - but if current side Jubilo Iwata lose on Saturday, he could bring the curtain down on his career. File picture: Getty Images

An astonishing five clubs finished on 41 points - Nakamura’s former club Yokohama F. Marinos, Shonan Bellmare, Sagan Tosu, Nagoya Grampus and Jubilo.

In a cruel twist of fate, Nakamura’s side were on course to finish on 42 points, and thus avoid the relegation play-off spot, but conceded in the fourth minute of injury time in their final match of the regulation season against champions Kawasaki Frontale. Jubilo had taken the lead on 78 minutes, only to concede an equaliser five minutes later.

As a result, Jubilo must now contest the J.League relegation/promotion play-off against Tokyo Verdy, who finished sixth in the J2 League with 71 points.

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Nakamura was a fans' favourite at Parkhead, not least for netting a stunning 30-yard free against Manchester United in the Champions League. Picture: SNS Group

Nakamura was a fans' favourite at Parkhead, not least for netting a stunning 30-yard free against Manchester United in the Champions League. Picture: SNS Group

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Jubilo will be relegated to Japan’s second division if they lose the crunch match against a side that is seeking a return to the top tier after ten seasons out.

Nakamura’s team have only spent two seasons outside the J1 League since the league system was restructured in 1992.

The 98-times capped Japan international spent four seasons at Celtic, playing 166 matches across all competitions, scoring 34 goals and winning three league titles, two League Cups and one Scottish Cup.

He was voted the SPFA Players’ Player of the year, SFWA Footballer of the Year, Celtic Player of the Year, Celtic Fans’ Player of the Year and won Goal of the Season, all in 2007.

After beginning his professional career with hometown side Yokohama IN 1997, who he would later rejoin in 2010, Nakamura also had spells at Reggina in Italy and Spanish outfit Espanyol.