World Football - Former Japan striker Takahara joins second-tier Verdy

Former Japan striker Naohiro Takahara has been released by Shimizu S-Pulse and dropped down a division to join J-League second-tier side Tokyo Verdy.

The 33-year-old, who also played for Hamburg and Eintracht Frankfurt, scored just once in 18 appearances last season.

Takahara scored 23 times in 57 games for Japan but missed out on the 2002 World Cup on home soil at the peak of his powers after contracting a form of deep vein thrombosis.

After missing the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, Takahara played at the 2006 tournament in Germany, where the 'Blue Samurai' made a meek early exit under Brazilian Zico.

The J-League's top marksman in 2002, Takahara joined S-Pulse from South Korean side Suwon Bluewings in 2011 after three years at Urawa Reds.