Why Crystal Palace should make a move for Hiroki Sakai in January
Back in June 2018, the Sun had claimed that Crystal Palace were interested in signing Marseille defender Hiroki Sakai. But a deal didn’t happen then and the Japanese has since stayed put at Marseille.
Hiroki Sakai, 29, has done well in Ligue 1 with Marseille since joining from Bundesliga side Hannover 96 in 2016. He won Marseille’s Player of the Year award the previous campaign, as voted for by fans, impressing with his dodged and determined performances for the Ligue 1 side.
The Japanese international has started the new campaign’s first two games, helping Marseille record a clean sheet in the 0-0 draw with FC Nantes.
As Hiroki Sakai has been one of the consistent right-backs in the Ligue 1 for a couple of seasons now, Crystal Palace must rekindle their interest and go for him when the transfer window reopens in January.
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson did manage to wrap up a few deals in the summer transfer window but he failed to replace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka in his squad.
Wan-Bissaka, who was one of the Eagles’ stars in an otherwise inconsistent 2018/19 campaign, left the club for a big-money move to Manchester United. He was outstanding last year for Palace and is considered one of the best defensive full-backs in the Premier League.
The England Under-21 international’s departure has left a huge void in the squad, with failure to bring in a replacement has seen Hodgson go with Joel Ward in the first two games of the new season.
Ward is nowhere near Wan-Bissaka’s quality and he looked particularly out his depth in the last weekend’s loss to newly-promoted Sheffield United.
Hodgson cannot rely on Ward for the entire campaign and must bring in an adequate cover and competition at right-back in January. That’s when the signing of Hiroki Sakai would make sense for the Eagles.
Predominantly a right-back, Sakai is capable of playing anywhere across the backline, featuring at left-back and at centre-back for his clubs and his country throughout his career. He is technically sound, physically strong and has excellent stamina that helps him run tirelessly throughout the entire game.
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The Japanese international is a reliable defender and he would certainly be an upgrade on Ward when it comes to defending.
The 29-year-old is hardly the sort of signing who will drag Palace up the table but at least he’d provide some depth and experience in a depleted defence. Operating at the peak of his powers, the Eagles must do everything in their powers to lure Sakai away from Marseille in the New Year.