Takashi Inui aims to be key contributor for Real Betis

Kyodo

A week after returning to Japan following Samurai Blue’s round-of-16 defeat to Belgium at the World Cup, Takashi Inui said Thursday the next step is contributing to his new team, Real Betis, in Spain’s La Liga.

“I want to enjoy playing soccer, and contribute to the team in the Europa League and in La Liga,” Inui told a news conference at the Spanish Embassy in Tokyo.

Inui agreed in June to transfer to Real Betis from Spanish side Eibar on a three-year contract. He is scheduled to join his new teammates on July 26 and travel with them to England.

“I really want to play their style of soccer. I gave it a lot of thought but I couldn’t help thinking I want to challenge myself,” he said. “I turned 30 this year, and I thought this would be my last transfer.”

He revealed he will wear the No. 14 shirt, the same number he wore during the World Cup in Russia. He helped Akira Nishino’s side advance to the knockout stage for the first time since 2010 by playing in all four of Japan’s matches and scoring twice.

Since returning to Japan, he has noticed that his life has changed since the World Cup, but he has not given much thought to playing in the next tournament in Qatar.

“People point at me whenever I’m on the train. I feel like the World Cup has had a huge impact,” Inui said. “I haven’t thought about four years from now. I just want to focus on getting a spot in the starting lineup with my new team.”

Meanwhile, the Kashima Antlers announced they have agreed on Japan international Naomichi Ueda’s transfer to Belgium first-division side Cercle Brugge.