x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Zenga backs Japanese protégé Morimoto to be a hit for Al Nasr

Walter Zenga says the acquisition of Takayuki Morimoto from Catania on a six-month deal is a signal of the club's long-term ambition.

Takayuki Morimoto enjoyed success under Walter Zenga when the two were together at Catania in Italy's Serie A. Fabio Bozzani / EPA
Takayuki Morimoto enjoyed success under Walter Zenga when the two were together at Catania in Italy's Serie A. Fabio Bozzani / EPA

DUBAI // Walter Zenga says the acquisition of Takayuki Morimoto, the youthful Japanese striker, is a signal of Al Nasr's long-term ambition.

Morimoto arrived at Al Maktoum Stadium at the weekend on a six-month loan contract from Catania, the Italian Serie A side.

It was in Sicily that Zenga first encountered Morimoto; the Italian manager then in his guise as Catania coach, extracting the most productive season from a player long touted as one of Japan's brightest young footballers.

Morimoto will also resume his friendship with Giuseppe Mascara, the Al Nasr frontman who, alongside the former J League star, enjoyed a prolific 2008 at the Stadio Angelo Massimino.

"He's very young, only 24 years old and shows we're thinking about the future of this club," said Zenga last night at Morimoto's official unveiling.

"For example, we have Hassan Mohammed, who is 23, Jamal Hussain, 20, Younus Abdullah, 21, and Habib Fardan, 22. It's important to build something for the future."

Zenga is confident that Morimoto can replicate the form he displayed under his tutelage at Catania, when he scored 10 times in 25 appearances.

His partnership with Mascara brought the best out of the Italian attacker, too, with the 33 year old scoring 13 that season.

Mascara has scored 10 goals in the Pro League already this term, as Nasr sit fifth in the table, only five points off second-placed Al Jazira.

"Seasons differ from one to another, but his relationship with Mascara was another advantage we thought about," Zenga said.

"We'd a great season at Catania and, of course, we hope he can give us more chance to score goals with Pepe and Bruno [Cesar].

"He is a real worker, very much in the typical Japanese style, who never gives up. I'm very lucky to have this type of player in my squad."

Morimoto can play as a deep-lying striker or out wide, although Nasr supporters may have to wait to see him in action until after tomorrow night's Etisalat Cup encounter with Al Shaab.

"My fitness is fine right now, and I'm excited about the next few months here," he said through an interpreter. "I know the manager very well and that's the reason I came here.

"The Pro League has a lot of famous players past and present, such as Luca Toni and Asamoah Gyan. I'm looking forward to playing and attempting to get as many goals as possible."