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Former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine returned to Japanese baseball Monday, signing a three-year deal with the Chiba Lotte Marines.

News photoBobby Valentine smiles with Chiba Lotte acting owner Akio Shigemitsu during a press conference in Tokyo where Valentine was formally appointed on a three-year deal as the new skipper of the Marines.

“This was just the right thing to do at this point in my life,” the 53-year-old manager said. “To feel wanted and needed is very important in life.”

Valentine, fired by the Mets in October 2002 with one year left on his contract, declined to comment on financial terms of the contract, saying only that it was “flattering” and appropriate for someone with over 2,500 games of managerial experience.

Japan’s Sports Nippon newspaper reported Monday that he will make an estimated $6.4 million on the three-year contract with an option for two years.

Valentine, who replaces Koji Yamamoto, guided the Marines to a second-place finish in 1995, the team’s best finish since 1985.

At the end of the ’95 season, Valentine had a falling out with then-general manager Tatsuro Hirooka and left Japan.

“I had some philosophical differences at the end last time I was here. They will allow me to direct the team this time the best way to make a winning team,” Valentine said.

“I feel confident that I have been given the freedom to guide the club using my knowledge and my philosophy.”

Since his departure, the Marines haven’t finished better than fourth in the Pacific League.

Valentine had previously said he had hoped to return to Japan as a manager some day.

“I really and truly believe that when I left last time I left my work incomplete,” he said. “(Acting Lotte owner) Mr. (Akio) Shigemitsu and I have met many times since I left and when his manager job became open, he did not hesitate to offer me the job.”

Valentine, who had also been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Grady Little as manager of the Boston Red Sox, spent this season as an analyst for ESPN.

He managed in New York from 1996-02, leading the Mets to the 2000 World Series. He also managed the Texas Rangers from 1985-92.

“I’m looking forward to bringing pride to the Lotte organization and the fans of the Lotte team and also I will try to bring more pride and more excitement to the Pacific League,” Valentine said.

While Valentine said it was difficult to make an assessment of the current Lotte team without seeing the players first, he said he would be interested in having a look at former Mets player Tsuyoshi Shinjo, who was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk in July.

“Shinjo had a good season with the Mets when I managed him,” Valentine said. “Now that he may be available, we’ll go through the proper channels to speak with him in the future.”

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