Japan's next great hope has taken his next big step.

Takefusa Kubo, the 18-year-old midfielder expected to feature for Japan at the Tokyo Olympics and for the Samurai Blue across many years beyond that, is officially returning to Europe, four years after FIFA sanctions forced him to leave Barcelona's famed La Masia youth academy.

But he will not be returning to Barcelona, the club that scouted him at 10 years old, brought him to Spain and first put him on the radar of millions of fans.