Fulham are reportedly eyeing a summer move for Manchester City defender Ko Itakura, who impressed away on loan at FC Schalke 04.

According to Sky Sports’ Lyall Thomas, Manchester City defender Ko Itakura has emerged as a summer transfer target for newly-promoted Premier League side Fulham.

Itakura signed for Manchester City in the January transfer window of 2019 from his boyhood club Kawasaki Frontale in Japan. The centre-back was immediately loaned out to Dutch outfit FC Groningen for an 18-month stint. The Japanese defender was a regular during that stint and upon returning to City, he went back to Groningen for another temporary spell in 2020/21.

Itakura made close to 60 appearances across his two stints for the Dutch outfit before signing for Schalke on a season-long loan last summer. The 25-year-old soon became a mainstay in the defence for the German club playing in the second division after getting relegated in the 2020/21 campaign.

Itakura went on to play a key role as Schalke achieved promotion back to the German top-flight by winning the 2. Bundesliga. The Japanese defender featured 31 times in the league, even chipping in with four goals to help Schalke return to the top table in Germany.

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With his loan spell now coming to an end, several clubs from across Europe have taken note of his performances and are planning a swoop for the 25-year-old. As per the report from Lyall Thomas, Schalke themselves want to sign Itakura on a permanent deal but are set to face competition from newly-promoted Premier League side Fulham.

The Cottagers were crowned the champions of the English second division this past season, as they earned automatic promotion to the Premier League. Manager Marco Silva is now sketching out plans to build a squad capable of toughing it out in the top tier and avoiding the drop back to the EFL Championship.

Fulham have confirmed the releases of Alfie Mawson and Michael Hector upon the expiration of their contracts. It leaves a gaping hole in their centre-back department, with Tosin Adarabioyo, Terence Kongolo and the 34-year-old Tim Ream being the only other options. So, a new centre-half is a priority for the London club.

There have been links with Nottingham Forest defender Joe Worrall, with Ko Itakura now emerging as a target for Fulham. However, they will face competition from fellow promoted club Bournemouth, along with Schalke, Freiburg and Hoffenheim. So, it will be interesting to see where the Manchester City defender ends up come summer.

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