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Man City loanee Ko Itakura open to Schalke stay as he hails 'incredible' Arsenal full-back Tomiyasu

11:00 EAT 21/04/2022
Ko Itakura Schalke 2021-22
The Japan international tells GOAL about his desire to help the German giants gain promotion and discusses his hopes for the World Cup

Manchester City defender Ko Itakura has told GOAL that he can see himself staying at Schalke after his loan deal with the club ends in the summer.

The German side have a £5 million ($6.5m) option to make the move for the Japan international permanent at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

Itakura joined City in 2019 but has never played for the Premier League champions having been immediately sent out on a two-year loan to Dutch side FC Groningen before moving to 2. Bundesliga club Schalke.

What did Itakura say?

“Of course, I can imagine staying here, Schalke is a big club with a long history and great supporters,” Itakura told GOAL on behalf of Betway.

“Playing in front of a breathtaking crowd is what every player is dreaming of and the club has enormous potential.

“The most important thing next season will be recommending myself for the World Cup by performing well at the club. My long-term goal is to play first division football – and I’d love to achieve that with Schalke this season.”

The 25-year-old has adapted quickly and has started all but the opening game of the season for Schalke and has four goals from centre-back.

But any move could depend on whether the club can gain promotion, with Schalke currently top of the second tier but with fourth-placed Darmstadt just five points behind.

“I’m glad that I was able to settle in quickly and that I’ve played so many games so far and been able to take responsibility,” he added. “Schalke is definitely a club that belongs in the Bundesliga but the race for the promotion spots is tough.”

Praise for Tomiyasu

Itakura is one of a number of European-based footballers hoping to be part of Japan’s World Cup squad later in the year.

And he hailed Arsenal full-back Takehiro Tomiyasu as an inspiration for players aiming to get to the very top.

“It’s incredible how he’s developed recently, especially at a big club like Arsenal,” he said. “He’s a very talented player and one of the examples that show Japanese players who come to Europe can develop and make it to the highest level.”

Japan have been drawn with European powerhouses Germany and Spain for Qatar 2022, along with the winners of the play-off between Costa Rica and New Zealand.

Despite being outsiders to make it out of the group stage, Itakura says they have the potential to cause a surprise.

“Reaching the group stage is already great, but we want more now,” he said. “We have a very tough group and of course we are the underdogs. Although many people say that we have no chance, I don’t think that the bigger teams will underestimate us.”

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