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Soccer: World Cup star Inui says next goal is contributing to Real Betis

Takashi Inui (L) of Japan poses for photos at the Spain Embassy in Tokyo, on July 12, 2018. Inui will join Spain's Real Betis on July 26. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A week after returning to Japan following Samurai Blue's round-of-16 defeat at the World Cup, Takashi Inui said Thursday the next step is contributing to his new team, Real Betis, in Spain's la Liga.

"I want to enjoy playing soccer, and contribute to the team in the Europa League and in la Liga," Inui told a press conference at the Spanish Embassy in Tokyo.

Real Betis announced in June they had acquired Inui from Spanish side Eibar on a three-year contract. He is scheduled to join his new teammates on July 26 and travel with them to England.

"I really want to play their style of soccer. I gave it a lot of thought but I couldn't help thinking I want to challenge myself," he said. "I turned 30 this year, and I thought this would be my last transfer."

He revealed he will wear the No. 14 shirt, the same number he wore during the World Cup in Russia. He helped Akira Nishino's side advance to the knockout stage for the first time since 2010 by playing in all four of Japan's matches and scoring twice.

Since returning to Japan, he has noticed that his life has changed since the World Cup, but he has not given much thought to playing in the next tournament in Qatar.

"People point at me whenever I'm on the train. I feel like the World Cup has had a huge impact," Inui said. "I haven't thought about four years from now. I just want to focus on getting a spot in the starting lineup with my new team."

Inui left J-League side Cerezo Osaka in 2011 to play for German Bundesliga second-division side Bochum. The following year, he moved to first-division side Eintracht Frankfurt and in 2015 moved to Eibar.

"I hope to make a difference to their attack, but I learned a lot of defensive tactics with Eibar. So I want to contribute to Betis' defense too," he said.

Betis were sixth in the league table in the 2017-2018 season and have booked a spot in the Europa League.

Meanwhile, J-League first-division side Kashima Antlers announced they have agreed on Japan international Naomichi Ueda's transfer to Belgium first-division side Cercle Brugge.

The 23-year-old Ueda, who joined Kashima in 2013, will leave Japan on Sunday to sign his contract after undergoing a medical. Although Ueda was named to play in his first World Cup this summer, he did not take to the pitch.

"My goal is to become a player who can perform well on the global stage. My desire to improve grew stronger when I was watching the World Cup matches from the bench," he said in a comment released by Antlers.

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