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Sakai joins Urawa Red Diamonds from Marseille

Saitama: Defender Hiroki Sakai is making a return to Japan after signing with Urawa Red Diamonds from French club Marseille.

Sakai’s first objective will be to help the J League club in their bid to return to the top echelon, as Urawa sit seventh in the 20-club league, 27 points behind leaders Kawasaki Frontale.

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Right-back Sakai, 31, will bring a wealth of experience to the Saitama-based club, having spent almost a decade in Europe.

He first started out in his home town club of Kashiwa Reysol in 2009, but made his overseas debut when he signed with Germany’s Hannover 96 in 2012, before signing with Marseille in 2016.

The Japan international has also been busy with the Samurai Blue, featuring in head coach Hajime Moriyasu’s squad for the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023, beating Myanmar 10-0 at the Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba.

Japan have already confirmed their place in the final round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers after winning all seven of their matches in Group F, and will hope to close off the round with a perfect record when they face Kyrgyz Republic on Tuesday.

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