Gamba Osaka confirm bid for Yoichiro Kakitani

Struggling J.League side Gamba Osaka are attempting a rare acquisition from cross-town rivals Cerezo Osaka for midfielder Yoichiro Kakitani, the club confirmed on Sunday.

The 2014 treble winners started the season poorly, going into the World Cup break with just 15 points from 15 matches and flailing out of the Emperor’s Cup after a shock loss to a university side.

Kakitani experienced his best-ever season at Cerezo in 2013 when he scored 21 goals under current Gamba manager Levir Culpi and entered the national team picture for Japan.

But despite high expectations which led to an appearance in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and a move to Swiss champions Basel which lasted just two seasons, the 28-year-old has struggled to regain the explosive form of his youth.

“Levir asked for an attacker (from his time Cerezo), and the player fits our style of football” Gamba chairman Takashi Yamauchi told Nikkan. “It’s a big decision for [Kakitani] to make, but if he makes it he’ll be welcomed here.”

On Monday, Yamauchi apologized for the team’s performance in the opening three months of the season, writing: “we will support Culpi’s team even more than we have until now and use the World Cup break as an opportunity to reorganize and improve our competitiveness.”