Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo said Tuesday he was hungering for a cross-town derby against fellow Japan international Keisuke Honda who has been linked to a move to AC Milan.
“It’s my dream to confront a fellow Japanese in a Milan derby,” the 26-year-old Nagatomo told reporters at Tokyo’s Narita airport before flying back to the Italian city after pre-season holidays at home.
“I really want to fight against him. I want to stop him squarely when the time comes.”
According to Italian press reports, widely quoted in Japan, AC Milan have agreed terms with CSKA Moscow midfielder Honda, 27, but it is unclear when he will arrive in Italy — in the summer or winter transfer window.
“I and Keisuke are of the same generation and have inspired each other until this day,” Nagatomo said. “He has the mentality which would help him through wherever he may play.”
Honda, Nagatomo and Manchester United attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa have helped power Japan to a fifth straight World Cup berth since their debut at France 1998.
After more than three years with reigning Russian champions CSKA, Honda has expressed his wish to join a bigger club in Europe and improve his skills as a central midfielder for the country ahead of next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
According to the reports, AC Milan and Honda’s representatives have agreed on a four-year contract worth 2.5 million euros per season.
His deal with CSKA will expire at the end of December and AC Milan could wait until January to sign him up for free.
At the Confederations Cup in Brazil last month, Japan, four-time Asian champions, lost all three group games to Brazil, Italy and Mexico.
“I have managed to sort out what we should do in order to fight on the world stage,” Nagatomo said. “We need to upgrade our running ability and the accuracy of our play. With only year to go before the World Cup, I want to go on with strong motivation.”