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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Naga joins Inter (Yes, really!)

Just two days after his cross led to the decisive goal in Japan's Asian Cup win over Australia #sniff#, ex-FC Tokyo full back Yuto Nagatomo has made a hugely significant move in his career, joining reigning Serie A, Champions League, Coppa Italia and Club World Cup champions Inter Milan on loan from Cesena.

The above nicely-photo-shopped image was taken from Inter's Official English Website, where Naga was quoted as saying "I'm very happy to have joined Inter, the world champions. Now I have to prove to everyone that I can play." On becoming the first Japanese player to don the Nerazzurri's famous black and blue strip, Naga said "That fills me with great pride. I really want to succeed wearing the Nerazzurri colours."

Inter's move came right before the end of the January transfer window, and saw their young left back Davide Santon go in the opposite direction, also on loan. Nagatomo will provide cover for regular left back Cristian Chivu, and as all fans of the Gasmen know, could easily do the same on the right behind Maicon, having come through the Tokyo youth system as a right back.

Naga's meteoric rise to international prominence, which started after he played so impressively at the 2010 World Cup - earning him his initial move to Italy - continued in Qatar, where he was one of Japan's outstanding performers in their record fourth continental triumph. Having assisted on Japan's equaliser in the semi final against South Korea (we'll forget his miss in the penalty shootout, shall we?!), he crossed for Tadanari Lee to volley home in the second half of extra time in the final against the Socceroos, cementing his place in the tournament's Best XI. In fact, if left back were not such an unfashionable position, I believe Naga would've/should've at least been a finalist for player of the tournament, so influential were his performances.

So after 16 starts with Cesena, Nagatomo has joined up with Inter (currently 4th in Serie A) and will almost certainly be in the squad, and may even make his Nerazzurri Serie A debut, this Thursday, Feb. 3rd, away at the bottom club Bari, before his first taste of his new home, the San Siro, in a massive game against 5th-placed Roma on Sunday. With Inter into the semi finals of the Coppa, and through to the last 16 of the Champions League, the games will come thick and fast, but two that stand out and should whet Naga's appetite are the February 23 home clash against Bayern in the Champions League round of 16, and the derby against AC Milan on Sunday, April 3rd.

Inter currently sit nine points behind their city rivals, but with a game in hand, and all FC Tokyo supporters (unless they are also massive Milan fans!!!) will be hoping Naga can help the Nerazzurri make up the difference and clinch a 19th League Title.

Do us proud little man. Buona fortuna!

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