• Kyodo

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Japanese World Cup midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara signed a loan deal with Italian club Messina on Tuesday and was given the No. 16 shirt.

The signing took place four days after Messina announced the acquisition of the services of the 27-year-old, who played in two of Japan’s three matches at the World Cup in Germany.

Ogasawara, who has played for J. League side Kashima Antlers his entire career since his professional debut in 1998, introduced himself in Italian at the outset of his press conference and said he will do his utmost for Messina.

In January this year, Kashima turned down an offer from Messina for Ogasawara, who was also a member of Japan’s 2002 World Cup squad.

Kashima gave the nod for his move to Italy this time around after Messina confirmed to the Ibaraki club that it will remain in Italy’s Serie A — the Italian League’s top tier — although it had been headed for relegation after finishing 18th in the 2005-06 season.

In an unexpected twist of fate, however, champion Juventus was stripped of its title and relegated to Serie B, allowing Messina to stay in the top flight, after being found guilty of involvement in a match-fixing scandal.

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