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Inamoto hopes to play for Arsenal next season

Agence France-Presse

MORI, Japan (June 15, 2002 5:56 a.m. EDT) - Japan World Cup star Junichi Inamoto said Saturday that he still has hopes of playing for English champion Arsenal, insisting that he was unaware of moves by the Gunners to dump him.

"It is up to the coach (Arsene Wenger) who decides on whether he sacks me or not by watching my play and attitude. I have nothing to complain about after showing my performance," said Inamoto.

Reports earlier this week said Arsenal had released Inamoto on a free transfer - but the player Saturday said he was still waiting for confirmation.

"I haven't yet heard about it directly from the coach. He called me before, but I couldn't answer the call. I expect him to call me later, maybe at the end of the tournament.

"Basically, I want to play for Arsenal next season. I was confident to show my ability if I had a chance to play, but I also knew that the coach would not use a player soon after he joined the team."

Wenger has refused to play Inamoto in the Premiership, limiting his first-team appearances to two Worthington Cup ties and 20 minutes in the Champions League.

But Inamoto has already upped his value, however, by scoring in Japan's 2-2 draw with Belgium. He followed that up by scoring the only goal in his nation's first-ever World Cup victory over Russia Sunday.

The World Cup co-hosts went on to beat Tunisia 2-0 to finish atop the preliminary group to reach the last 16, where they will play Turkey for a place in the quarterfinals.

"When I read papers, I thought

'I was fired, was I?' I was surprised when I heard a news flash about it while I was watching TV vacantly lying on my bed. The news woke me up," said Inamoto.

Inamoto said playing for Arsenal and watching top players closely had improved his play.

But he said he would not be so keen on Arsenal if it meant another season on the bench.

"I may change my mind if my position is the same as the last season, even if I can renew the contract for the next season. It is not up to the coach but to myself to take a regular starting position. It depends on my own ability."

"Even if I can not renew the contract, I'm ready to play in any countries. It is a good chance to play in the World Cup, because many coaches are watching. It is a good chance to show myself to the world," added Inamoto.
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