Japan is a football-loving nation and their love for the game has helped them reach a level that created a system that produces talents that features in the top clubs of Europe. Just look at the interest of the young Takefusa Kubo of Real Madrid, whose skill garnered enough attention from the experts and in the upcoming summer Olympics in Tokyo, he is dubbed as one of the stars of the mega-event.
Take Kubo's grand tour of LaLiga looks set to continue, as Real Sociedad are expected to sign him on loan from Real Madrid. At times he looked decent at Mallorca but struggled at Villarreal and Getafe – on paper, La Real look the best fit so far #LaLiga #Kubo pic.twitter.com/Df5NhbSnKy
— Alex Brotherton (@alex_brotherton) July 15, 2021
At the age of seven, Takefusa Kubo started playing football for FC Persimmon, a local club based in his home city Kawasaki. In August 2009, he was awarded MVP at FC Barcelona Soccer Camp in which he participated at the age of eight. In April 2010, he was selected as a member of FC Barcelona School team and participated in Sodexo European Rusas Cup held in Belgium. He was awarded MVP even though his team finished third. After returning home, he began to play for the Kawasaki Frontale junior youth team.
In 2011, Takefusa Kubo had been invited to join FC Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, after passing the trial.
He began to play for Barca Alevi C (U11).
During his first full season (2012–13), he was the top goal-scorer in the league with 74 goals in 30 games. In his third full season (2014–15), he was promoted to Barca Infantil A (U14).
But the Spanish club was later found to have violated FIFA’s international transfer policy for under-18 youths, making Kubo ineligible to play for the club. He returned to Japan in March 2015 in search of playing time, signing with FC Tokyo’s junior youth team.
Takefusa Kubo who plays in LaLiga scored a goal in the U-24 friendly match by passing the ball between the legs of 4opponents and showed the "K" pose for the 2nd time⚽️
I bet K would have been overjoyed like this↓↓💚
— PPQ⭐️💚 (@PPQ_LOVES_K) July 17, 2021
Takefusa Kubo joined the FC Tokyo U-18 team in 2016.
In September 2016, he was promoted to the senior side at the age of fifteen. On 5 November, he made his formal debut for the reserve team in the J3 League as a halftime sub for the match against AC Nagano Parceiro.
He made his professional debut at the J.League record of 15 years, 5 months and one day.
In April 2017 Kubo became the youngest player to score in the J.League at 15 years, 10 months in a 1–0 win over Cerezo Osaka U-23. A month later, he top-flight debuted for the first-team in J.League YBC Levain Cup playing 25 minutes in a 1–0 win against Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo.
In November 2017, FC Tokyo announced an update to Kubo’s contract improving it to pay him as a first-team member.
In 2018 he joined Yokohama F. Marinos on a half-year loan.
Four Madridistas will take part in the Tokyo Olympic Games.
— TheRMadridTV (@TheRMadridTV) July 20, 2021
He immediately scored on his debut with Marinos in an away game against Vissel Kobe.
From the start of the 2019 season, Kubo became a regular starter for FC Tokyo in both the J.League YBC Levain Cup and J.League scoring goals in both competitions.
On June 14 2019, Kubo signed with Spanish club Real Madrid on a five-year deal. Although registered with their U-19 team, he had been expected to mainly play for Real Madrid B during the 2019–20 season.
However, he featured regularly with the first team during Real Madrid’s pre-season tour of the United States and Germany.
On August 22 2019, Kubo joined RCD Mallorca on a season-long loan.
He has become the third Japanese player in Mallorca’s history after Yoshito Okubo and Akihiro Ienag.
— RouteOneFootball (@Route1futbol) June 12, 2021
Though Mallorca were relegated in 2019-20, Kubo had become one of their standout players over the course of the campaign, and despite not being deemed ready to return to Santiago Bernabeu, he was placed at Europa League aspirants, and eventual winners, Villarreal.
Unfortunately, by the time Unai Emery and his Yellow Submarine got their hands on the trophy, Kubo was long gone.
Immediately after leaving Villarreal, Kubo moved to fellow top tier side Getafe CF on loan for the remainder of the season.
It did not work out there, either, and it leaves Kubo in an awkward position ahead of next season.
But, Kubo is certainly talented.
🚨 | Takefusa Kubo scored this goal vs Jamaica today.
He nutmegged FOUR players. 🤯 🇯🇵pic.twitter.com/TnMdvtS2aZ
— Blancos Central (@BlancosCentral) June 12, 2021
Kubo plays as a forward, can form the tip of the midfield in a diamond shape formation and can play as the second striker.
Kubo has a gifted left foot and the ability to dribble past the defenders that earned him the nickname “Japanese Messi.”
Technically masterful, Kubo is a treat to watch with the ball at his feet. Thriving on dribbles, in a one vs one situation he is always hard to read and capable of beating his man in a variety of ways. Be it with his Velcro-like close control, clever alterations in pace, rapid changes of direction or shimmies, feints, nutmegs and step-overs, he’s a tough man to contain.
TAKEFUSA KUBO's goal against Ghana's Black Meteors pic.twitter.com/ubNEVZM9uQ
— LUKMAN EVERGREEN (@LukmanEvergreen) June 5, 2021
Retaining his close control at speed helps to deliver during the counter-attack and when damagingly cutting infield from the flank, where his mesmerizing runs and skills enable him to shake the defences.
Possessing a wicked first touch and a keen head scanner, he can read the players on the pitch masterfully and the vacant spaces, so he knows whether he can turn, protect the ball or play a quick layoff.
A key byproduct of his ball-carrying prowess is that he regularly wins fouls in dangerous areas in and around the box, plus through how he often draws one or more defenders to free up a colleague.
Whenever his team needs to break the deadlock, Kubo is able to break through the ragged backlines with pace and dribbling skills and create opportunities.
But still, he is not without weaknesses – as in the past he used to lose possession on the field, even though over the years, he has improved a lot.
In the summer Olympics, Kubo is dreaming big and is determined to impress everyone which includes the Real Madrid think tank.
A goal worth the wait! 😉
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) May 19, 2021
“I’m going to the Olympics with the intention of winning; I don’t think that winning will close the gap between Japan and the world. However, I think that winning will be an appeal to the world, both for me and as a team. I want us to have a tournament that will surprise the world,” Kubo said in an interview.
“Kubo is starting to justify all the media attention his return to Spain generated,” wrote La Vanguardia in March 2020.
“The Japanese (forward), aesthetic to watch and striking from the first moment he touches a ball in a game, has won his place to become one of the main arguments for Mallorca to survive in the top flight.”
“At 18, he’s involved in moves that sometimes seem more like cartoons, with dribbles that recall players of far greater experience and status in La Liga. He takes on mazy dribbles, crossing the entire pitch with the ball sewn to his left foot.”
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) July 3, 2020
“He is conscious that he has a challenge, that of being the first Japanese player who reaches the top level, and there are many people that want that to be the case and want to accelerate the process,” Emery told AS in October.
“But that acceleration is not good, he should adapt and grow to compete in more positions (on the pitch). I understand the media noise, he is a star off the pitch, but he should be one on it too.”
“He was looking for a way out because he plays less than he thinks he has to play. He still lacks things, but he has the potential to continue growing, with patience and by getting more playing minutes and experience.”
“In the end, Kubo’s style always stood out for how different it was to that of Jose Bordalas (the coach),” Marca reporter Juancar Navacerrada told Goal.
“He left a good taste in the mouth with the goal that helped Getafe guarantee survival with a week to go, but yes, it’s true, his time at the Coliseum was very inconsistent.
“He had good moments, but in a general idea and dynamic that was very negative for him.”
The Tokyo 2020 is a big test for Kubo and he knows that very well. He impressed in the game against Spain, setting up Ritsu Doan for the goal and he would be needing more of them in the main event.