Yasuhito Endo retires after legendary J.League career

Yasuhito Endo retires after legendary J.League career

Yasuhito Endo has called full-time on his remarkable 26-year career. The legend announced his retirement on Tuesday, but he is staying in the J.League, joining the Gamba Osaka coaching staff with immediate effect.

Endo was peerless as a midfielder, leading his teams to great heights and lifting plenty of silverware, including two J1 titles with Gamba Osaka and the J2 championship once apiece with Gamba and Júbilo Iwata.

He is also a five-time Emperor’s Cup champion, two-time J.League Cup winner and even conquered the continent, winning the AFC Champions League with Gamba in 2008.

Endo was not short on individual honors either. He was named J.League MVP in 2014 and his 12 J.League Best Eleven selections is a record. Endo was also named AFC Champions League Best Player in 2008 and Asian Footballer of the Year the following year, to go along with two Japanese Footballer of the Year trophies.

When the J.League celebrated its 30th campaign last year and handed out a slew of awards to recognize the best of the league’s first three decades, Endo was named the J30 MVP, recognizing him as the best player in the history of the J.League.

Endo made his professional debut at just 18 years old in 1998 for Yokohama Flügels, helping them to the Emperor’s Cup. A year later he was onto Kyoto Purple Sanga and in 2001 he joined Gamba Osaka, where he would become an icon.

Endo spent two decades at Gamba, winning every major Japanese trophy and Asia’s top competition. Even during the club's low point of 2013, having been relegated to J2, he led them to the second division title and then to the top-flight crown at their first time of asking the following year.

After more than 600 matches, Endo finally departed Gamba in 2020 for Júbilo Iwata. There, he would help the club to promotion in 2021 and play a big role until the end of his career, even amassing five assists in his final season in 2023.

Endo was just as good for his country as he was his club, pulling on the Samurai Blue shirt a record 152 times. He played at three FIFA World Cups and helped Japan to two Asian Cup titles as well.

There has never been a player quite like Endo. He was unmatched as a creative midfield force and the story of the J.League cannot be written without him as the heart of it.

Now, he moves onto coaching, where the Gamba legend will once again wear the crest on his chest.