Nakata sparkles in Japan return

Former star midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata played in Japan for the first time since 2005 on Wednesday, setting up two goals in a warm-up for an exhibition game.

Nakata, 31, who retired after Germany 2006, had a hand in both goals in Japan Select XI's 3-2 loss to Tokyo Verdy second team. The Japan team, made up mainly of ex-national players, will play a World Select XI on June 7.

"I feel my feet are still heavy. I can move only 30 or 40 per cent of what I could do when I was an active player," said the two-time Asian Player of the Year. "I'm going to work harder and hopefully I can win any awards, including the most valuable player's award."

Nakata had not played a formal match in Japan since an international fixture against Angola in November 2005.

Since his retirement, Nakata has stayed out of public view and spent much of his time travelling, occasionally doing charity work with street children in South-East Asia.

He made a surprise appearance on the sidelines of last year's Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam, where he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and unveiled a plan to encourage football among poor Asian children.

Nakata was the first Japanese player to join a European club since Kazuyoshi Miura played for Italian Serie A side Genoa in 1994-1995.

He spent seven years in Italy's Serie A with Perugia, AS Roma, Parma, Bologna and Fiorentina, before moving to Bolton on a one-year loan.