When news broke that Tottenham are reportedly interested in Olympique Marseille defender Hiroki Sakai, not everyone was impressed with the rumour.
Sky Sports News have recently reported that the Japanese international is a player Spurs are keen on signing this summer as the club aim to offload current right-backs Serge Aurier and Kieran Trippier.
At 29, Sakai’s age is perhaps a key reason why some Spurs fans have been uninspired with the rumour, but what have the experts said about the experienced defender?
“He is a smiling boy, in his upbringing there is humility. He is a soldier, and he is loved by everyone. He is a warrior on the ground. He knows that he can score and create assists.”
When you look around for quotes from Marseille players and officials who know Sakai better than anyone, it becomes quickly apparent that everyone associated with the club loves the Japanese international, including former manager Rudi Garcia.
“For me, he will do everything (on the pitch). He will defend and attack and will run endlessly on the pitch. I am very happy to be able to play with him. I love him. I didn’t know him until I came to Marseille, but I played together this year and he is a wonderful player, which was a surprise.”
Sakai is a clear fan favourite in the French city, and another player who has waxed lyrical about the defender is former Newcastle midfielder Florian Thauvin, who when speaking to Goal Japan about his teammate sounded more than enthusiastic.
“He is an adorable boy, who never poses any problems. In the work, the application and the generosity, he is irreplaceable, and Marseille fans know it well. From a football point of view, he is the complete player and has phenomenal athletic qualities.”
Keeping up with the theme of some fairly known names in football fangirling over Sakai, former international manager Vahid Halilhodzic also appears to be a huge fan, previously praising the defender’s ability on the pitch and his attitude off it.