In a football world filled with countless stars of today, so many of us are curious about who is waiting in the wings. That search for that next wonderkid; a youngster that has the potential to make us stand up and marvel at how they are masters of their craft despite their tender age, is always on the minds of millions of fans around the world.
With this in mind, we at 101 Great Goals will be bringing you another weekly series taking a look at players across the world that are 21-years-old or younger. Some of them you will have no doubt heard of, while we hope to bring you a few new names to spark your curiosities every now and then.
Name: Takefusa Kubo
Place of Birth: Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
National team caps: 15
Current club: RCD Mallorca (on-loan from Real Madrid)
Current Market Value (per Transfermarkt): €9million
Potential suitor(s): Various
Japan has a storied history of being a nation that has a knack for being a neutral fan favorite at the international level as Samurai Blue entertains as a country that regularly showcases a collective talent that most have hardly heard of.
That trend began to spread to leagues across Europe in the late 1990s when Kazuyoshi Miura as well as budding talent Hidetoshi Nakata became just the first-two Japanese players to feature in Serie A when they arrived at Genoa and AC Perugia respectively. Though Miura would spend just one year in Italy before returning to Japan, Nakata would go on to ply trade for AS Roma, Parma, Bologna, and Fiorentina across a credible career that helped breached a barrier for talented Japanese footballers to flood through.
And it did not take long, either. The likes of Shunsuke Nakamura, Keisuke Honda, and Shinji Kagawa headlined a national player pool of technical talents admired by the likes of Arsène Wenger that would eventually make their way to the top clubs across the continent and staring on some of Europe's biggest nights. Long-linked as being the next big name to emerge from Japan, Takefusa Kubo has large boots to fill.
Already starring at the age of seven at youth level in tournaments outside of Japan's borders, Kubo joined the youth ranks of local outfit and J League club Kawasaki Frontale at 9-years-old in 2010 but would only spend a single year in the academy set up before joining Barcelona's La Masia academy set up for four years. After returning home and joining FC Tokyo's academy due to sanctions placed on Barça, his notoriety continued to grow when he performed stoutly for the club's U-23 side before making his full debut in 2016. In doing so, Kubo became the youngest player in J League history at 15-years and 5-months.
Five months later, Kubo set another record while in Tokyo red and blue, becoming the youngest goalscorer in J League history. After a quick loan with Yokohama F.Marinos, global giants Real Madrid would come calling on a free transfer in 2019.
Dubbed the 'Japanese Messi,' great things have been expected of Kubo for years, but his club career has hardly gone the way of stardom despite his rise to prominence as a youngster. He had a credible first loan stint with Mallorca where he bagged 4-goals and added 5-assists across a combined 36-appearances during the 2019-20 season.
His spells with Villarreal CF and Getafe CF were far less impressive, and up to the conclusion of the 2020-21 season, Kubo had yet to make a single appearance for Madrid since his arrival. At current, he is once again on loan and back with Mallorca and though he missed eight league matches with a meniscal injury, he started 15 of a possible 23 matches he was available for and is widely considered to be the most influential pieces in the Els Pirates squad under manager Javier Aguirre.
A deadly combination of pace and technical ability make him a force to be reckoned with, while his tactical versatility allowed Aguirre as well as Japanese national team manager Hajime Moriyasu to utilize him on either flank as well as in a central attacking role.
With Madrid widely expected to retool this summer by targeting French starlet Kylian Mbappé and needing to offload a cadre of players in the hopes of recouping somewhere in the region of €100million through the sales of players the likes of Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, and Isco, Kubo could also be on the unwanted list at the Santiago Bernabeu. Thankfully for Kubo, his age profile and footballing education should make him a hotly-contested signing given the low fee he is likely to command.
Valued at just €9million by Transfermarkt and a full Japanese international while not yet reaching his twenty-first birthday, there is still more than enough time for Takefusa Kubo to finally build a profile that many back at home will have long waited for.