Celtic could well have received some promising news regarding the future of reported target, Ko Itakura…
Writing on Twitter, the Japanese defender appeared to confirm that he will not be signing a permanent deal with newly-promoted Bundesliga side, Schalke, having spent the recent campaign on loan at the club: “I am very grateful for my time with Schalke. It is a great club and we enjoyed a great season together. I really felt like a family. I will miss everyone here very much, but I wish Schalke all the best for the future. Thank you for everything”.
The German outfit have also released a statement thanking the 25-year-old for his service, with sporting director Rouven Schröder admitting that they had simply been unable to do the deal for ‘financial reasons’, with Sky Sports previously reporting an option to buy fee of around £6m to prise him from parent club Manchester City.
That same report also noted the Hoops interest in the eight-cap international, with Postecoglou and co plotting new defensive additions ‘regardless’ of whether Cameron Carter-Vickers sees his temporary deal made permanent.
This latest news will prove a notable source of delight for the Celtic boss, with the Scottish champions now far better placed to strike a deal for the one-time Groningen man, should they wish to follow up their previous interest.
The £3.15m-rated machine – who is yet to make a single appearance for Pep Guardiola’s side since arriving at the Etihad in January 2019 – had emerged as a target for the club last summer, albeit with the Parkhead outfit eventually bringing in the likes of Carl Starfelt and the aforementioned Carter-Vickers.
That pair have formed an “immense” partnership in recent months – according to pundit Chris Sutton – although further competition will no doubt be needed, particularly with Champions League group stage involvement to come for the first time since 2017.
Equally, a lack of depth could emerge if Christopher Jullien departs the Old Firm side this summer, having seemingly fallen out of favour in the 2021/22 campaign, making just a solitary appearance in all competitions despite returning from injury midway through the season.
In Itakura, however, Postecoglou could have identified a more suitable fit, having likely been aware of the defender’s talents due to his strong connections to the J-League, with the versatile ace having begun his career at Kawasaki Frontale.
Raiding the Japanese market has already worked wonders for the 56-year-old in recent times, first bringing in Kyogo Furuhashi during the summer, before adding Daizen Maeda, Reo Hatate and Yosuke Ideguchi in the winter to help with their title push.
The aim will be to kick on again next term, with managing to secure the services of the City man likely to go down well with the Celtic visionary.