Bayern Munich Signs Japan Defender Hiroki Ito in First New Arrival Since Hiring Kompany as Coach

AP Photo/Michael Probst
Stuttgart’s Hiroki Ito during the German Bundesliga soccer match between TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and VfB Stuttgart in Sinsheim, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

MUNICH (AP) — Bayern Munich has signed Japan defender Hiroki Ito from German rival Stuttgart in a move aimed at bringing in “new energy” which could start a wider overhaul of Bayern’s squad.

Ito joins on a four-year contract, Bayern said Thursday. He is the first new signing for Bayern since Vincent Kompany was hired as coach last month in place of Thomas Tuchel.

“We want hungry players who bring in new energy and Hiroki has everything we wish for: he is a player who takes on challenges, overcomes them and keeps pushing forward,” Bayern board member for sport Max Eberl said in a statement.

The transfer fee wasn’t made public but German magazine Kicker reported Bayern had met a release clause for an initial 23 million euros ($25 million) plus possible add-on fees.

The 25-year-old Ito had been with Stuttgart since 2021 and was key to its surprise run to second in the Bundesliga this season. Stuttgart finished one place ahead of Bayern, which ended the campaign without a trophy for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

Ito adds depth to a Bayern defense that was frequently depleted by injuries last season and often relied on Eric Dier, who has since left when his loan from Tottenham ended. Ito typically plays in the center of defense but can also cover defensive midfield and left back roles.

Bayern is also signing the 18-year-old Australian winger Nestory Irankunda in a deal that was agreed in November but only takes effect next month. Spanish winger Bryan Zaragoza’s transfer from Granada has become permanent after an initial loan spell at Bayern.