Yokohama hopeful of January swoop for Nakamura

By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Japan's Yokohama F-Marinos have refused to rule out a bold swoop for Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura in January's transfer window.

The J-League side's hopes of signing Nakamura had looked to be dashed with the club's owners Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> feeling the pinch of the global economic crisis.

However, F-Marinos officials told Reuters they were still hopeful of signing the 30-year-old, whose contract with Celtic runs out next June.

"His agent came back from Scotland yesterday and we're discussing the possibility still," Yokohama's Masanori Hakamada said.

"There has been no firm decision yet but obviously we need to reach a decision by the end of the year."

Slumping cars sales in Japan did not mean that Nissan would be unable to fund the $5 million deal for Nakamura, who began his career with Yokohama.

"These are tough times economically, of course, but nothing has changed," Hakamada said. "It hasn't altered our position over whether we try to sign him in January or not.

"He is currently still under contract and we're still examining our options. If it doesn't happen (in January) we'll look at the situation again in the summer."

Nakamura has expressed his desire to finish his playing career in Yokohama.

Last season's Scottish player of the year has also struggled with the frequent long-haul trips to play in Japan's World Cup qualifiers in recent months.

The free kick specialist left Yokohama in 2002 to join Italy's Reggina, before moving to Celtic three years later. He has made 82 appearances for Japan. (Editing by Martin Petty)