Takefusa KUBO biography
Could Kubo become the biggest Asian soccer star of all time? A lot of observers believe he might – and he’s already acquired the nickname ‘the Japanese Messi’. The Kawasaki-born right midfielder, who can also play up front, was spotted by Barcelona as an eight year-old, while taking part in one of the Spanish club’s soccer camps. He was snapped up by Barcelona’s legendary La Masia youth academy, moving from Japan to Spain permanently, aged just ten. Kubo dazzled for the Barca youth team – with a highly impressive goalscoring record – but in 2015 signed for FC Tokyo, feeling that he might get more playing minutes back at home.
A successful season in the J-League, however, meant that the European giants came calling again. Kubo signed for Real Madrid in 2019. The Spanish side see him as a future star – but in order to get some experience, he has been loaned out to Mallorca, where he recently made his La Liga debut. By doing so, he became the youngest Japanese player to ever play in one of Europe’s big four leagues (18 years and two months old).
“I really liked Real Madrid's goal in a sporting sense, the plan they had for me for the next few years, and what they thought about me for the future,” says Kubo. “Real Madrid were clear that they wanted to sign me. They showed me the plan they had for my career and I really liked it. That convinced me.”
Kubo is also now an international regular. He was called up to the Japan senior squad at the age of 18 for the 2019 Copa America, making his debut against El Salvador.
What makes him so special? The nickname is some clue. Kubo is a master with the ball at his feet: he is short, quick and technically gifted, just like the Argentine Barcelona legend. He is direct, but can do surprising things with the ball, and he is mentally very strong for a player his age.
"He has the three qualities you look for in a player—rapid decision-making in reduced space, the ability to create space for teammates and his speed; his movement into open spaces is incredible," says Oscar Hernandez, his old coach at Barca. “He's also a player who is versatile. He's chameleonic. His usual position is on the right wing, with an ability to cut inside, but he can also play in midfield or centre-forward. He’s got a good left foot. He knows how to take advantage of a situation.” At Tokyo 2020, should he play as part of the football tournament, he may well be his nation’s biggest star.