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Saturday, Nov. 6, 2004

Mallorca moves in on Okubo

BARCELONA, Spain (Kyodo) Spanish first-division side Mallorca is looking to sign Japan's Athens Olympic striker Yoshito Okubo from J. League club Cerezo Osaka, Spanish media reported on Thursday.

Mallorca announced at a news conference for new manager Hector Cuper the same day that it wants Okubo, and club officials are already in Japan negotiating the terms and conditions of a one-year deal, according to the reports.

Cuper, who rejoined Mallorca as a replacement for Benito Floro, who was sacked last week, is an admirer of the 22-year-old Okubo and is looking to solve a crisis in front of goal as the Primera Liga struggler has won just once in nine games so far this season.

Okubo played a key role in helping Japan qualify for the Athens Olympics and scored in its only win in Greece -- over Ghana. He has also won 15 caps with the senior national team.

A move to Mallorca would make him the third Japanese player to join a Spanish club.

Former Japan striker Shoji Jo scored twice in 15 appearances during a brief spell at Valladolid in 2000, while Okubo's Cerezo teammate Akinori Nishizawa played on loan at Espanyol from the end of that year but failed to find the net in eight matches.

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