Ko Itakura could miss Celtic's Champions League qualifiers should he sign

By David Walton

June 29, 2021

The overnight transfer story surrounding Celtic was the potential acquisition of Ko Itakura, but that could pose them big problems with regards to the UEFA Champions League.

The Daily Record reported late last night Itakura was high on a list of options for the Hoops. Celtic are in real need of centre-back options heading into the game against Midtjylland.

However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that signing the 24-year-old City star would come with one major obstacle. Itakura has been selected by Japan for this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo [First Post].

Japan will play group stage games on July 22nd, 25th, and 28th. Should they progress to through the groups, he could finish up his Olympics campaign as late as August 6th.

That would rule Itakura out of both the second and third qualifying rounds should Celtic sign him.

Could be tricky for Celtic to stop Ko Itakura from going to Olympics; Champions League hops could take a hit

The Olympics, of course, isn’t a FIFA-sanctioned competition. Therefore, Celtic would have a right to refuse Japan access to the player if we signed him. It’s unclear whether there’s a certain deadline to halt this however.

Given the competition is in Tokyo, too, it could be harder for Celtic to release Itakura. It certainly wouldn’t paint us in the most positive light in Japan. The player may also feel aggrieved given the major opportunity he would be missing out on.

All of these things matter. Meaning if Celtic pulled this one off, they would have a major Champions League problem on their hands.

Ko Itakura in action for Groningen (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Itakura would be viewed as a key cog for us too. Considering he would be coming in as a fresh centre-back option, there would be a high level of importance placed on his availability. He would be expected to be one of the players at the heart of our defence for our Euro qualifiers.

Liverpool have led the way in blocking talents from going to the Olympics. The EPL giants refused Egypt access to Mo Salah for the upcoming competition. However, it’s seen them come in for some heavy criticism on the back of it [Liverpool Echo].

It’s something for Celtic to take into account should they decide to press ahead with a move for Itakura. The last thing we need heading into these games is a sideshow.

In other news, a report has listed the eight players Ange Postecoglou has his eye on to kickstart the Celtic rebuild.