When J.League side Kashiwa Reysol signed Jorge Wagner at the end of 2010, they were getting more than just a versatile and vastly experienced performer. The Brazilian defender-cum-midfielder is also something of a talisman, having won major titles at virtually all the clubs he has played for.
“That’s right, I’ve always won things wherever I’ve gone,” the globetrotting 32-year-old told FIFA.com before modestly adding: “I think I’ve had a bit of luck along the way too, though.”
Through good fortune or not, Wagner has compiled an impressive CV, winning 12 trophies with six different clubs, including the 2006 Copa Libertadores with Internacional, Brazilian championships with Sao Paulo in 2007 and 2008, and a Russian title with Lokomotiv Moscow in 2004.
As if that were not enough, he is now working his Midas touch at Kashiwa. Promoted from the second division only last year, the unglamorous outfit are on the brink of an unlikely J.League crown, holding a two-point advantage over national powerhouses Gamba Osaka with only three games remaining.
“Obviously we’re dreaming about it, but we know it’s going to be tough because of the competition here,” he said. “It’s not easy to get out of the second division and then go and fight for the title. We’re a team that’s still coming together and we know our limitations, but we’ve slowly but surely grown in belief and we’ve earned the respect of our opponents. That’s been the secret.”
Kashiwa’s success since climbing out of the second tier has been founded on hard work and solid craftsmanship, and in Wagner they have an on-field leader who knows how to get the job done and sees himself as just another member of the team.
“I’ve never felt I’m a star, anything but,” said the unassuming linchpin. “All I think about is the team and the workload we have to get through. Maybe that’s why I’ve won so many things.”
Goalscorer and goal provider
An accomplished corner-kick taker and crosser of the ball, Wagner has provided countless assists in his career. Yet, though his selfless ability to tee up team-mates has also been a feature of his spell with Kashiwa, the much-travelled Brazilian has been among the goals himself this season, having converted from left-back to an attacking midfield slot at the behest of his coach Nelsinho Baptista.
The scorer of three goals in the last few weeks, Wagner now has nine for the season, making him his club’s third-highest scorer behind compatriot Leandro Domingues on 11 and Junya Tanaka on 12.
“I’ve become a bit of a goalscorer here, and that’s something that brings me pleasure,” he said. “Setting up goals makes me happy too, though, and I provided two assists against Sanfrecce Hiroshima the other week. At the end of the day, what matters is that the team does well.
“Nelsinho gave me the freedom to attack and it’s turned out to be the right move,” he continued. “He’s always shown his appreciation of the players and he’s instilled a winning mindset here. He said we could win the league and that we should believe we could do it, and that’s had a big effect on us. The team’s been on the up and up since getting relegated a few seasons back, and that’s because we’ve believed in work the coaching staff’s done and their project.”
A global challenge
Though anxious for yet more silverware, Wagner is also contemplating the reward that comes with winning this year’s Japanese title: a place at next month’s FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011. Even if it means staying on in wintry Japan and delaying his holiday back in Brazil’s sunnier climes, the laid-back veteran is determined to seize his chance to take on Barcelona, Santos and the world’s other continental champions.
“The title is still our main objective,” he commented. “I’m thinking about nothing else but the games we’ve got left, and as far as I’m concerned my holidays in Brazil can wait. We’ve got a great chance of making it to the FIFA Club World Cup in December, which is definitely part of my plans and the team's."
Given Wagner’s knack for picking up trophies wherever he goes, Kashiwa fans could be excused for booking their tickets to Yokohama already.