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Veteran Nagatomo promises to keep up with Marseille youngsters

Marseille (AFP) – Yuto Nagatomo on Wednesday promised Marseille fans that he wouldn’t be outrun by his younger teammates as was officially unveiled as the Ligue 1 club’s latest recruit.

Japan full-back Nagatomo, who has collected 122 caps and played in three World Cups for his national team, will turn 34 in 10 days time but is ready to show that he can keep pace with his new team’s more youthful summer signings.

The former Inter Milan and Galatasaray defender is Marseille’s third signing this transfer window after the arrival of two 21-year-olds, French midfielder Pape Gueye from Watford and Argentine defender Leonardo Balerdi on loan from Borussia Dortmund.

“I might be 34 years old, but I can run more than anyone. Physically I feel good, I’ve trained every day, I’m a good professional,” Nagatomo told reporters during his presentation.

“Other teams wanted me, but as soon as I got the offer from Marseille, I told my agent that I wanted to play here.”

Nagatomo becomes the third Japanese to wear the Marseille jersey after Koji Nakata (2005-2006) and Hiroki Sakai who has been at the club since 2016.

He arrives as an understudy to Frenchman Jordan Amavi, who coach Andre Villas Boas confirmed would remain Marseille’s starting left-back.

“Amavi was our first pick last year, and that’s not going to change… We made that clear to him (Nagatomo),” said Villas-Boas, whose team will take part in this year’s Champions League.

“We’ve signed an experienced player. He has a lot more experience than Jordan at this level of the Champions League.

“He has played 12 Champions League games in the last two and a half years at Galatasaray. That’s what interests us.”

Nagatomo said: “Amavi is a great player. He is physically and technically very strong. But we have lots of matches ahead of us this season.

“We have the Champions League, the league and the cup. We’re playing in several competitions and we can’t go through the season with just 11 of us. All the players will have a role to play. I came here to play and help out the team.”

Villas-Boas said he was pleased to have such an experienced player — Nagatomo played over 200 times for Inter in seven years at the Serie A giants — in a squad that finished second in Ligue 1’s curtailed 2019-20 season.

“We have got ourselves a player who is ready … there is no need to teach him the job, he knows what is expected of him,” he said.

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