Gelsenkirchen - An embodiment of reliability in the Royal Blues' defence and one of Japan’s greatest exports to the Bundesliga, has been one of the key figures in FC Schalke 04's recent revival.
The 53-time Japan international was rested in Saturday's 3-0 loss at 1. FC Nuremberg, Schalke's first defeat after three consecutive league victories, but has mostly been first choice since joining from Kashima Antlers in 2010 and has set a prime example to compatriot successors such as 1. FC Nuremberg's Hiroshi Kiyotake and Takashi Inui of Eintracht Frankfurt.
Speaking exclusively to bundesliga.com, Uchida hinted that the transition from the J. League to the Bundesliga wasn't actually all that difficult. "I just love playing here", the 24-year old right-back said. His club mates also played an important role in him settling in right from the start. "I’ve just settled in so well, and really feel good playing my part in this team. That’s how I can continue to develop. I’ve developed very close friendships with some players, like Julian [Draxler] for example."
It's not only the amicable relationships within the team that tie Uchida to the Gelsenkirchen-based club, as he explained, praising the mostly sold-out 61,673-seater Veltins Arena, a stadium still considered one of the most modern in Europe. "If you’re a professional footballer, you just have to love playing in this stadium. The atmosphere, the passion of the supporters and the reception you get when you jog on to the pitch are all so unique."
"Ground to make up"
Last week's elimination in the UEFA Champions League against Galatasaray SK and the defeat to Nuremberg represented a bit of a setback for the Miners, who are nevertheless in a good position to repeat qualification for Europe's elite competition, level on points with fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt and with a six-point deficit on third place. Uchida, however, feels there is much to atone for going into the final eight matches of the campaign. "This season we’ve let a lot of points go cheaply. We have ground to make up," he warned.