Bayern Munich sign Japan defender Ito in Kompany’s first move

Bayern Munich have signed Japan defender Hiroki Ito from Germán rival VfB Stuttgart in a move aimed at bringing in “new energy” which could start a wider overhaul of Bayern’s squad.

Ito joins on a four-year contract, Bayern said Thursday. He is the first new signing for Bayern since Vincent Kompany was hired as coach last month in place of Thomas Tuchel.

“We want hungry players who bring in new energy and Hiroki has everything we wish for: he is a player who takes on challenges, overcomes them and keeps pushing forward,” Bayern board member for sport Max Eberl said in a statement.

The transfer fee wasn’t made public but German magazine Kicker reported Bayern had met a release clause for an initial €23 million ($25 million) plus possible add-on fees.

The 25-year-old Ito had been with Stuttgart since 2021 and was key to their surprise run to second in the Bundesliga this season. Stuttgart finished one place ahead of Bayern, who ended the campaign without a trophy for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

Ito adds depth to a Bayern defense that was frequently depleted by injuries last season and often relied on Eric Dier, who has since left when his loan from Tottenham Hotspur ended. Ito typically plays in the center of defense, but can also cover defensive midfield and left-back roles.

Bayern are also signing the 18-year-old Australian winger Nestory Irankunda in a deal that was agreed in November, but only takes effect next month. Spanish winger Bryan Zaragoza‘s transfer from Granada has become permanent after an initial loan spell at Bayern.

Bayer Leverkusen, the team that ran away with the Bundesliga, also did business on Thursday, signing Aleix Garcia from Girona where he was key to his team’s third-place finish in LaLiga last season.

The 26-year-old García signed a five-year contract with Leverkusen, where he joins up with Spanish coach Xabi Alonso.

“Aleix García is a player with outstanding strategic ability, his passing is extremely accurate and he plays with great vision from holding midfield,” Leverkusen sporting managing director Simon Rolfes said.