• Kyodo, Staff Report


Ascendant star playmaker Takefusa Kubo is departing FC Tokyo for a move to Spanish giant Real Madrid, it was announced on Friday.

Just days after making his Japan national team debut on Sunday against El Salvador in a pre-Copa America friendly in Rifu, Miyagi Prefecture, the 18-year-old has agreed to terms with Real Madrid with details to be announced in the near future.

Real Madrid confirmed the signing in a news release on Friday.

On Thursday, Kubo took part in training with Hajime Moriyasu’s squad in San Paulo ahead of the 12-team tournament to be held between Friday and July 7, but left without speaking to reporters.

According to Spanish sports newspaper Marca, Kubo has been offered a €1 million salary and a five-year contract, with Real Madrid to pay a €2 million transfer fee to the J. League club.

Barcelona and Paris Saint-German were also rumored to be in the running to secure the services of Kubo, who is now free to move after turning 18 on June 4.

The attacking midfielder has been on a hot scoring streak recently in the J. League first division, netting four goals in his last four games this season. But he now has a chance to make a much bigger splash for one of the world’s most prestigious teams.

It will not be Kubo’s first taste of Spain, however, as the young prospect was invited to enter the Barcelona youth academy at age 9, earning him the nickname “Japanese Messi.”

His first Spanish stint ended in difficult circumstances as, following three seasons in the Barcelona system, he returned to Japan after the club was hit by a transfer ban for breaching FIFA rules on the recruitment of junior players from overseas.

Real Madrid, founded in 1902, has been a powerhouse team for decades. From 1951 to 1960, for example, the team captured five consecutive European Cup titles. Starting in 2016, Real Madrid has won three straight FIFA Club World Cup titles.

Meanwhile, Kubo is considered a likely selection for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, where the men’s soccer tournament will be contested by Under-23 teams with a limited number of overage players.

Against El Salvador, Kubo’s debut was highly publicized. He became the youngest player at age 18 and five days to earn a cap for Japan since 17-year-old Daisuke Ichikawa in 1998. Kubo didn’t score in Sunday’s friendly.

“Despite being handed this wonderful chance to play, I couldn’t capitalize on my opportunities,” Kubo said.

“I intend to score in South America.”

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