Japan international reveals he turned down offer from Celtic

Japan international defender Hiroki Sakai has revealed he turned down offers from Celtic and Ajax to sign for Marseille during the summer of 2016.

Hiroki Sakai gestures during a match between Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Picture: Getty Images
Hiroki Sakai gestures during a match between Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Picture: Getty Images

During the summer of 2016, Brendan Rodgers was searching for a new right back, eventually bringing in Cristian Gamboa from West Bromwich Albion.

But it appears that the Celtic boss was also keeping tabs on Sakai, capped 36 times for Japan.

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Sakai gave an interview to France Football, explaining why he chose Marseille over moves to the Eredivisie or the Scottish Premiership and discussing his struggle to settle before becoming a crucial player under Rudi Garcia.

Sakai reacts during a match between Hannover 96 and Eintracht Frankfurt, prior to his move to Marseille. Picture: Getty Images

The 27-year-old right back said: “I had three offers [from Ajax, Celtic and Marseille]. [Japan boss] Vahid Halilhodzic told me Marseille was a good club, but it was hard to impose yourself there.

“Since that’s what I wanted, I chose to come here. I think he’s happy that I’m in France.”

Sakai has started all but two of Marseille’s matches this season, most recently playing in the victory against Amiens at the weekend, while Gamboa made 15 appearances for Celtic during the 2016/17 season.

Sakai reacts during a match between Hannover 96 and Eintracht Frankfurt, prior to his move to Marseille. Picture: Getty Images