Yuto Nagatomo was an ordinary football boy during his high-school days, but when he started to play full-back at Meiji University, he developed dramatically and was suddenly called up for the Japan U-22 selection.
He signed a professional contract with FC Tokyo in 2008 while he was still a student at Meiji, and immediately won a starting spot as the season began.
He was called up for the Japanese national team as early as May of that year and represented Japan at the Beijing Olympics in summer.
In his first year as a professional, he scored three goals in 29 league appearances, making a big contribution to FC Tokyo’s positive season.
In 2009, Nagatomo played an important role for both FC Tokyo and Japan, as the national team qualified for the World Cup. To maximize his abilities, he played not only as full back but at times also as wide midfielder.
FC Tokyo had another good year, they finished fifth in the league and won the league cup. Nagatomo’s impressive performance over the season was widely recognized, and he was selected in the J.League Team of the Year.
He stayed at FC Tokyo for the 2010 season as well, and he was called up for the Japan squad that traveled to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. He played all Samurai Blue’s four games and helped the team advance to the knock-out round.
After displaying impressive performances against world-class opponents, he received an offer from Italian side Cesena and decided to cross the ocean and to begin his adventure in Europe.
Over two and a half seasons in J.League, Nagatomo had helped FC Tokyo grow into one of the powerhouses in the league, especially thanks to his speed and physicality. The fact that FC Tokyo sadly got relegated the year they lost him is another sign to the importance of his presence.