Crystal Palace have reportedly taken an interest in Olympique Marseille defender, Hiroki Sakai in accordance to their plans for defensive restructuring ahead of the 2018/19 campaign. The Ligue 1 outfit has tabled a £12m asking price for their starting right-back.
Sakai made 50 total appearances for Marseille last term and contributed 4 assists and a goal on the offensive end. He helped the Phocaeans to the 4th spot of the league table and is tied to the side for another 3 seasons.
He made his way over to Orange Velodrome in the summer of 2016 from Bundesliga side, Hannover 96. He completed 4 seasons with the German outfit and racked up over 100 appearances along with 2 goals and 4 assists.
Sakai started out his playing career with J League side, Kashiwa Reysol and is now one of the best right backs in the French first division. The 28-year-old is experienced and dependable for the entirety of a regular season.
He is versatile with his positioning as well, making a handful appearances from the left flank and the central locations last campaign. Sakai is a cemented starter for the Japan national team with 41 caps already registered to his name. He is expected to make an appearance in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, set to take place in Russia next week.
The Eagles should move for a permanent signing as soon as possible to escape the exorbitant price hike following the international tournament. Just one good performance on the world stage can raise a player’s valuation, which in turn, inflates the transfer market as a whole.
Sakai could be a quality addition to the current Palace side and a good source of defensive output. Roy Hodgson has been forced to use a number of players in the right-back position in the side’s race towards relegation survival.
Martin Kelly is better suited centrally and Timothy Fosu Mensah has failed to meet the necessary standards during his loan spell away from Manchester United. Joel Ward made just 20 appearances and is not good enough to be a regular starter.
The 20-year-old Aaron Wan-Bissaka impressed aplenty but still needs to develop further and is primed to be an understudy. Sakai can lead the backline and put in a decent shift in helping his side stretch the floor.
Hodgson needs to make such improvements to the squad if he plans on taking the side further than the 11th spot in the league table next season.