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Sports

Yoshinori Muto favoring Mainz over Chelsea

Mainz are reported to be on the verge of signing promising Japan striker Yoshinori Muto in the summer, apparently beating English Premier League side Chelsea to the 22-year-old's signature.

Japanese news agency Kyodo News reported on Tuesday that Japan striker Yoshinori Muto has chosen to sign for Mainz rather than Chelsea.

Muto was reported to be concerned over first-team opportunities at the Premier League champions. An unnamed source at Muto's current club, FC Tokyo, also claimed the 22-year-old was concerned about qualifying for a work permit to play in England.

The club has refused to comment, but Kyodo News stated Muto is expected to reveal his future later this week on Thursday. Japanese daily newspaper Sports Nippon also confirmed a basic agreement had been reached between the two clubs.

According to Kyodo's reports Chelsea - who announced their largest ever commercial deal with Japanese tire firm Yokohama Rubber Company earlier this year - originally tabled what would have been a J-League record fee of just over five million euros ($5.84 million).

Mainz appears to be on the verge of securing Muto's signature for a reported three million euros. The Bundesliga's success with Asian players is believed to have been a large factor in Muto's decision. Fellow countryman Shinji Okazaki leads Mainz's scoring charts this season and may be a suitable partner in attack for Muto. That said, Okazaki has also been subject to interest from England and Muto may also be seen as a replacement.

Muto has scored eight goals in 11 league games this term, and graduated with an economics degree from Keio University in March. The striker is currently training with the Japan squad, but according to Kyodo News reporter Shintaro Kano, Muto suffered a knee injury in training on Tuesday morning.

jh/rd (SID, AFP)