Veteran Japanese midfielder Junichi Inamoto is hoping that his move to French First Division side Rennes will boost his chances of playing in a third FIFA World Cup™ finals next year.
The 29-year-old - capped 71 times and scorer of four goals - was an iconic presence, aided by his dyed blond hair, when Japan co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals with South Korea which saw the Japanese go out in the second round.
However, since then Inamoto - part of the Japanese squad that won the 2000 AFC Asian Cup in Lebanon - has, like many of his compatriots who have tried to make a career in European club football, earned the moniker of 'much travelled' with Rennes being his seventh club since he signed for Arsenal in 2001.
However, Inamoto is insistent that being reunited with one of his former bosses, the fiery Frederic Antonetti, who coached him at J-League club Gamba Osaka, will get him to settle at last. "Up till now I have not stayed longer than two years at any one club in Europe," said Inamoto, who scored two of his four international goals in the 2002 World Cup.
"But that is not very important for me, nor that I am the Japanese player to have played abroad the longest. What is important, is that I have been able to acquire an enormous amount of experience and if that can be put to good use at Rennes, that would be ideal.
Of course I have a burning ambition to play in the World Cup and in that sense playing in a top championship will make it easier for me to be selected,
"If I can contribute in steering them into the European Cup that would be my first target this season. Of course I have a burning ambition to play in the World Cup and in that sense playing in a top championship will make it easier for me to be selected. And if that is the case then I want to play well in the World Cup."
Inamoto, who just appeared in the League Cup for Arsenal before moving on to Fulham and has also seen service with Turkish giants Galatasaray, West Brom, Cardiff and German team Eintracht Frankfurt, said that Antonetti being coach of Rennes had helped him make his mind up.
"I was delighted the club were interested in me and came in for me when my contract with Eintracht was finished," said Inamoto, who has not scored in 26 games for the national side since a 2003 friendly with Uruguay. "And then I know the coach with whom I worked with ten years ago.
"When he got angry he would always express himself in French, but it is ten years since I have not heard his voice and it gives me great pleasure to hear it once more. Rennes is a good club, with a nice atmosphere, so all that motivated me to come here."
Inamoto conceded that he had a habit of playing under French coaches having been with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and Philippe 'the white witch doctor' Troussier for the national side in the 2000 Asian Cup and the 2002 FIFA World Cup. "It is true that there have been a lot of French coaches who have appreciated my style of play," said Inamoto.
"Now I must show in France that these coaches were right and I am really happy to be able to play there. When I came to Arsenal, everyone said that I was going to help sell a lot of shirts. But in reality there were no sales in Japan, therefore I don't think that my presence here is going to help increase sales of Rennes shirts," he added laughing.