• Kyodo

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Shonan Bellmare midfielder Mitsuki Saito will join Russian outfit Rubin Kazan on an 18-month loan deal starting in January, while fellow midfielder Toichi Suzuki will join Swiss outfit Lausanne on a permanent deal pending a successful medical, the J. League first-division side said Monday.

The 21-year-old Saito, who captained Japan during the Under-20 World Cup in Poland last year, came through the ranks at Shonan and is known for his tenacity and work rate.

“I feel this transfer is really important for my future goal, and I’m glad a move overseas has finally come true,” said Saito, currently part of the Japan U-23 side preparing for the Tokyo Olympics next summer.

Saito has made 80 appearances and scored four goals in the J1 since making his professional debut in 2016. He won the J. League Cup with Shonan in 2018.

“My playing style and character have all been nurtured at Shonan Bellmare and I feel I’ll just have to keep displaying those traits,” he said. “Whether it’s in Russia or somewhere else in the world, and even if I were to get picked for Japan’s senior side, I’ll always remain a Shonan product.”

Left-footed Suzuki, a 20-year-old youth product of Cerezo Osaka, is blessed with dribbling ability and is capable of operating on either flank. The Osaka native joined Shonan ahead of the 2019 season and has scored once in 36 top-flight appearances so far.

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