Japan’s status as FIFA’s top-ranked team at the 2024 AFC Asian Cup and the favourites to win the title owes much to their possession of players of the pedigree of Takefusa Kubo.
Once of Barcelona and Real Madrid, Kubo has been a key part of Real Sociedad’s progress to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, winning a group that included 2022/23 finalists and current Serie A leaders Inter Milan.
Kubo has been lauded as “extraordinarily talented” ahead of the finals and the creativity that has seen him directly contribute to almost a third of Sociedad’s 2023/24 league goals is likely to be in entertaining evidence again as Japan attempt to win the Asian Cup for the first time since 2011.
The Sporting News looks at Kubo’s story so far, including his experiences at the two most high-profile clubs in Spain and the latest transfer talk on his future.
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Takefusa Kubo: Age, position, career of Japan star
Born in Kawasaki on June 4, 2001, Kubo is 22 but already has a wealth of experience among Europe’s elite, beginning when he was spotted by Barcelona as a child.
The Spanish giants held a football camp in his home city, where Kubo was named best player. He went on to join their La Masia academy, famous for developing an abundance of talent through the years including eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
Kubo is an attacking midfielder or forward who is adept at playing as a support striker and drifting out to the right, with analysis by Breaking the Lines in 2022 highlighting his hard work to win the ball off defenders and his tendency to cut inside from that flank with his left foot and find clever passes when in possession.
Barca could not keep Kubo because of an investigation into their adherence to FIFA transfer policies around youth players, rendering him ineligible to play for the club.