J-League champions Kawasaki Frontale have agreed to a deal that will bring former Japan international Manabu Saito from Yokohama F Marinos, the two clubs announced Friday.
The move will give Frontale a major boost ahead of the 2018 season as they continue team-building efforts, despite Saito having yet to recover from a knee injury that will delay his debut for the new club.
"I see this move as a challenge," Saito said in a statement.
"My desire to start afresh as a player helped me make the decision to leave Marinos," he said.
Late last year, Kawasaki succeeded in re-signing all-time J1 top scorer and veteran forward Yoshito Okubo, who spent a year with FC Tokyo.
Okubo played for Frontale for four seasons from 2013 and on his return to Todoroki Stadium will join a list of powerful attackers, including Yu Kobayashi who led the league with 23 goals and won the MVP honors.
Frontale had been pursuing Saito, who was raised in Kawasaki, since 2016 and has been showing strong interest in the 27-year-old even after he sustained a right knee injury last fall that will keep him off the pitch for at least eight months.
Saito had surgery to repair a damaged knee ligament in October and is currently undergoing rehab. Frontale's signings are certainly helped by the 2.2 billion yen ($19.75 million) from prize money and other funds the club has received from the J-League.
A product of Marinos' junior system known for his dribbling skills, Saito was a member of the national team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and 2012 London Olympics. He played a total of nine seasons with Marinos from 2008, and had a one-year loan spell at Ehime FC in 2011.
Frontale led the league with 71 goals last season and are looking to defend their J1 championship and win their first Asian Champions League title this year.