Here's all you need to know about Ko Itakura after the defender was linked with a move to Liverpool this year.
It's an intriguing one as Itakura will supposedly have a very small release clause - as little as £8.5m. That would make him a bargain signing for any major side. And perhaps that's Liverpool.
But Itakura isn't one of the biggest names in football, so with that in mind, here's all you need to know about the player.
Ko Itakura: Basic info
- Name: Ko Itakura
- Nationality: Japanese
- Birthplace: Yokohama
- Birthdate: January 27th, 1997 (26)
- Position: Centre-back
- Clubs played for: Kawasaki Frontale, Vegalta Sendai, Groningen, Schalke 04, Borussia Monchengladbach
- International caps: 22
Career so far
Itakura started his career at Kawasaki Frontale and was a Japanese champion by the time he was 20. His first regular football came on loan at Vegalta Sendai, however, and he was impressive enough that Manchester City signed him in early 2019.
The defender never played for City, though. They immediately sent him on loan to Groningen in the Eredivisie where he spent two seasons, playing regularly. After that, a spell in the Bundesliga 2. with Schalke 04.
The German club didn't pick up their purchase option on Itakura, however, and that allowed Gladbach to pick him up on the cheap in 2022. City were willing to sell, given they had little use for the defender.
But Itakura has since thrived. He's become one of the better centre-backs in Germany and was actually Gladbach's player of the month earlier this season.
However, an injury back in October ruled Itakura out for months. He's only just made his return to action - but for the Japanese national team at the Asian Cup. It means the 26-year-old has only played seven times in the Bundesliga at halfway.
What kind of player is Itakura?
It's easy to see why Liverpool would be interested. Itakura is entering the prime of his career and boasts very solid stats for what could be a sub-£9m player.
He completes 90 per cent of his passes, for instance, which puts him in the 88th percentile for centre-backs across Europe's top five leagues. Liverpool are a team huge on consistent passing at centre-back and Itakura certainly offers that.
The defender is in the top 5 per cent for blocks per 90 minutes, too, with 1.86. That would put him third in Liverpool's squad for any position and is better than any defender at the club.
There is a major negative in his game, though. Itakura is not solid in the air, winning a little over half of his aerial duels (53 per cent). That's in the 19th percentile for centre-backs.
For a comparison, Virgil van Dijk wins 82 per cent - the best rate in Europe. Liverpool's weakest centre-back is Jarell Quansah and even he still wins 66 percent.
For £8.5m, though, you surely can't expect perfection. Itakura more than justifies his reported price tag and don't be shocked to see Liverpool move in the summer.