Scottish Premiership giants Celtic were “desperate” to sign Ko Itakura before the Manchester City defender moved on loan to Schalke, the German club’s sporting director has said in quotes reported by the Daily Record.
Whether Itakura would have solved Celtic’s defensive deficiencies is anyone’s guess.
But after the Glasgow giants lost their sixth away game in seven under Ange Postecoglou – going down 1-0 to bogey side Livingston three days after conceding four goals in just 18 minutes at Real Betis – you can’t blame supporters for wondering whether the 24-year-old Japan international would have been an upgrade on current options.
Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stephen Welsh and Carl Starfelt have all made big, individual mistakes so far this season, the latter increasingly resembling a £4 million misstep with every game that passes.
Was Ko Itakura the defender Celtic needed?
Itakura, meanwhile, has made a relatively successful start to life at the Veltins Arena, Schalke winning two of their past three games with the Man City loanee in their first XI.
“It took a lot of patience to sign him from Manchester City,” says Rouven Schroder, Schalke’s overworked and often underappreciated sporting director.
“For example, Celtic had tracked him for a year and were desperate to sign him – but we managed to beat them to it.
“We had to wait and wait and the deal could not be completed until the Olympic football tournament had finished, which probably helped us.
“But it was worth it in the end and (Itakura) has been a fantastic signing for us.”
According to the Daily Record, Manchester City were demanding a “substantial” loan fee for Itakura, with Celtic eventually turning their attention to Tottenham-owned USA international Carter-Vickers instead.
But after watching former Hoops loanee Jason Denayer produce a superb Europa League performance against their Old Firm rivals, it’s worth questioning whether Itakura could have made a similar impact at Parkhead.