Having first signed for the club back in February 2013, when Phuket Provincial Administration Office (OrBorJor) chief Paiboon Upatising was club president, Sato has seen the club go through several identity overhauls and coaching changes.
But now at the age of 34, the centre-back from the Kumamoto Prefecture of Japan is finally calling it a day and returning home in the hope he can still get first-team action with a Japanese club.
Speaking to The Phuket News this week, Sato said that he feels he has done as much as he can for the now Andaman Dragon, and having made 124 appearances, scoring 13 goals, that his time here is finally up.
“I want to return to Japan now and play in my home country. I’m 34, and although it’s quite old for a centre-back I should still be able to get signed by a Japanese club, although I’m not sure at what level that will be,” he said.
“I didn’t talk to Phuket FC’s management about signing a new contract for next season. I explained to them that I wanted a new challenge. They accepted my explanation,” he added.
Sato made his mark as a Phuket FC legend along with fellow centre-back Sylvestre Nenebi Tra, and has been a vital part of the team in every season he has played. He was often among the goal-scorers, and in fact, was the team’s top scorer in the 2014 season when they played in the Toyota League 1 scoring six goals.
“That was a great season for me personally, but for the club it was a fight for survival from relegation towards the end of the season,” he said.
Sato went on to say that he has both good and bad memories with the club, some relate to how seasons finished.
“I have a lot of good memories from playing with Phuket FC, but the best has to be in the 2015 season and we played against Nakhon Pathom United FC.
“This game was my 100th appearance for the club and many friends celebrated this occasion with me. This is one moment I will never forget,” he said.
“But there were also some bad moments too, not so much bad, I should really say disappointing. And the most disappointing moment was being relegated to Division 2 at the end of the 2015 season,” he added.
Sato had initially planned to play for Ang Thong United that season, however, he changed his mind at the very last minute and returned to play under the new president MaAnn Samran.
Fans are sure to be sad at Sato’s departure, and he also feels the same way, but he wanted The Phuket News to pass on his thanks to the club and the fans.
“I want say thank you to the Phuket FC fan clubs, they always gave me so much support. Yes, I am leaving Phuket, but please don’t forget me. I will never forget you too.
“My four years with Phuket FC have been amazing and they are years I will certainly not forget. Thank you, and good luck for the future Phuket FC,” Sato said.