New Telegraph

Napoli Eye Japanese Star, Itakura As Kim Min-Jae’s Replacement

Napoli have lined up Borussia Monchengladbach defender, Ko Itakura as a replacement for Kim Min-jae.

The Serie A champions are on the verge of losing Min-jae, who has been linked with Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The Partenopei face the big task of replacing the 26-year-old, who was instrumental in the club’s fairy tale run last season that saw them end their 33-year wait to clinch the Scudetto.

MIn-jae established himself as one of the best and most tenacious centre-backs in Europe, thus turning the heads of European heavyweights.

Paris Saint-Germain are also in the running to secure his services, but Bayern are rated as the favourites to sign him.

Itakura’s name has cropped up on the radar of the Italian champions following his impressive development in the Bundesliga in recent years.

The former Manchester City player enjoyed a productive loan spell with Schalke in the 2021/22 season before sealing a permanent transfer to Gladbach in a cut-price deal worth €5 million last summer.

Itakura had a mixed season with Gladbach last term. He missed a chunk of games through injury but delivered a string of consistent displays despite the Foals’ overall decline.

The Japanese defender’s performances in the 2022 World Cup didn’t go unnoticed as he was instrumental in the stunning victories over Germany and Spain in the group stage.

Itakura is a complete defender similar to Min-jae – equally good with the ball at his feet and off it.

His contract at Borussia Park expires in 2026, so the ball will be in Gladbach’s court when it comes to setting the transfer fee.

Napoli will likely pocket a chunk of money from Min-jae’s departure this summer.

Napoli recently announced Rudi Garcia as their new head coach to replace Luciano Spalletti, who parted ways with the Partenopei after just one season.

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