Japan veteran Uchida leaves Schalke for Union Berlin

Experienced Japanese full-back Atsuto Uchida has ended a successful seven-year spell with Bundesliga outfit FC Schalke 04 after the club confirmed his departure to second-tier side Union Berlin.

Uchida first moved to Germany in the summer of 2010 when he caught Schalke’s eye after a series of impressive displays J.League giants Kashima Antlers, with whom he won three Division 1 titles and an Emperor’s Cup.

It did not take long for the energetic defender to establish himself at the Veltins-Arena as he made 43 appearances in all competition in his debut season playing in Europe.

Soon enough, Uchida became an important player for Schalke but his recent influence has been severely hampered by a patella tendon injury – with the 29-year-old having not played a Bundesliga match in nearly two and a half years.

Still, he leaves the club with over 150 appearances to his name and is also the first Japanese footballer to play in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.

“Atsuto Uchida came to us and requested a move as he feels it was important to get game time after his long injury layoff,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel explained on the club’s official website.

“It was obviously not an easy decision for us to make, but we did not want to take away his opportunity of playing football.

“Schalke 04 would like to place on record heartfelt thanks to Atsuto, who always gave 100 per cent in a Royal Blue shirt.

“We wish him all the very best at Union Berlin, both on the pitch and off it. And of course he will receive a lovely send off from the club and the fans here at Schalke.”

Uchida joins an improving Union Berlin side looking to climb to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history, after consolidating their place in the second tier since promotion in 2009.

The capital-based club have not finished outside of the top half in the 2. Bundesliga in the past six campaigns, with last season’s accomplishment of fourth spot their best-ever achievement.

Aside from their new Japanese signing, another famous name in the Union Berlin squad is Felix Kroos, younger brother of Real Madrid’s Toni, who previously spent six seasons in the top flight with Werder Bremen.

Uchida, a veteran of two FIFA World Cups and a member of Japan’s 2011 AFC Asian Cup-winning side, will also be hoping that regular football will give him every chance of earning a recall from Vahid Halihodzic’s national team, especially with the 2018 World Cup in Russia on the horizon.