I'm aiming for every title, says Uchida
Kashima: Japanese star Atsuto Uchida is determined to make up for past regrets and help Kashima Antlers go all the way in the 2018 AFC Champions League ahead of next week's quarter-final second leg clash with Tianjin Quanjian.
Now a veteran with over 70 international caps and seven and a half years in Germany, Uchida was just 20-year-old when Kashima Antlers reached the AFC Champions League quarter-finals for their first and, until this year, only time.
That last eight encounter, against Australia's Adelaide United, ended in a disappointing 2-1 aggregate elimination for the J.League club, but now, a decade later, Uchida and Kashima have the chance to go at least one better.
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Leading 2-0 from the first leg against Tianjin Quanjian ahead of September 18's return meeting in Macau, Uchida knows that this year's campaign could be a golden opportunity to replicate the title-winning runs of Urawa Red Diamonds (2007) and Gamba Osaka (2008).
"For Japan Urawa Red Diamonds and Gamba Osaka have won the title, and I can say that I feel a sense of regret that Kashima haven’t become champions," said the former Schalke 04 full-back.
"Now I’m back from Germany I’m aiming to win every title. In Asia we haven’t been able to achieve success playing against clubs from other countries yet, but I’m looking forward to doing battle again."
Since Uchida's departure in June 2010 and subsequent return to Kashima in January 2018, a lot has changed at the side in terms of personnel, both on and off the pitch.
And, the 30-year-old claims, there are noticeable differences between the side the Japan international turned out with against Adelaide (below), to the one he lined up with last month at Kashima Soccer Stadium.
"This year there are a lot of young players who each have their individual strong points," said Uchida.
"Ten years ago the team as a whole had more experience, was maybe more competent and solid, but this year while we have had a few ups and downs I feel like we have a lot of players with potential.
"Young players give their best, even when there’s a tight schedule, and now as the pressure builds as we progress in the AFC Champions League it’s important we show our strength.
"If we aren’t able to do more in that respect then we can’t move any higher."
And the highest pinnacle in Asian club football? Progressing to the final hurdle of the AFC Champions League and lifting the trophy as the continent's kings.
"That is what we are aiming for, but every team is playing with the same intention," said Uchida (pictured in the 2018 side above).
"Several of the teams we’ve played against so far have really special foreign players and are spending a lot of money, and from now on too we will have to face those kind of teams.
"Kashima is the only team left from the J.League and so we have to represent Japan and go to-to-toe with those teams."
Photo: Getty Images
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