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Ex-Barcelona kid Kubo set for lift-off with Japan at Asian Cup

DOHA (AFP) — Takefusa Kubo was tipped for stardom after joining Barcelona’s academy aged 10 and the Japanese attacking midfielder now looks poised to realize his potential by taking the Asian Cup by storm.

tafekusa kubi.jpg
Japan midfielder Takefusa Kubo (AFP)

The 22-year-old, who was once signed by Real Madrid, has found his feet at Real Sociedad this season, scoring six goals and helping them top their Champions League group.

His eye-catching form has seen him linked with Manchester United.

Kubo played only a bit part at the 2022 World Cup but he is ready to take center stage as Japan return to Qatar for the Asian Cup, which kicks off on Friday.

With Brighton winger Kaoru Mitoma likely to miss the early part of their campaign through injury, Kubo’s ability to unlock defenses will be crucial.

“I hope he can be a player who leads the team to victory,” said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu.

“He is playing for Real Sociedad in the Champions League and Spanish league and he’s the player that they build their attack around.

“I want him to keep playing that way when he joins up with the national team.”

Kubo has been carrying Japanese fans’ hopes and expectations ever since he left his native Kawasaki as a child to join Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy.

He was dubbed “the Japanese Messi”, but was forced to leave when Barca were served with a two-year transfer ban in 2015 after breaking FIFA regulations on signing youth players.

Kubo joined FC Tokyo and played in the J-League until he turned 18, then signed for Real Madrid on a six-year contract.

He was loaned out straight away to Mallorca and bounced around a series of Spanish clubs before joining Sociedad on a permanent deal in 2022.

Twerk it out

Kubo has thrived in San Sebastian, thrilling fans with his mesmerizing dribbles and cheeky sense of humor.

He has become known for his honest post-match interviews, which he conducts in a chatty and jovial manner in Spanish.

And he has fun on the pitch too, celebrating a recent goal against Athletic Bilbao by appearing to pull up injured before breaking out into a “twerk” dance move.

“This is a club that suits my style — lots of skillful players, lots of talent, people who play the ball,” Kubo was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

“That’s very attractive for a player of my profile.”

Manchester United is reportedly interested in bringing Kubo to Old Trafford, with Brazilian winger Antony possibly going the other way.

The Asian Cup will help Kubo showcase his talents, with Japan favorites to lift the trophy for a fifth time.

Kubo made his international debut five days after his 18th birthday and has won 29 caps for his country.

But at the 2022 World Cup he played in only two games, starting against Germany and Spain.

He was substituted at half-time with Japan trailing in both games, only for his teammates to come back after the break and claim historic wins.

Kubo missed Japan’s last-16 loss to Croatia with a virus.

Moriyasu felt Kubo was too raw to take to the 2019 Asian Cup, where Japan lost to Qatar in the final.

This time around, the coach believes he is “a different player to what he was at 18”.

“He’s really looking forward to this competition,” said Moriyasu.

“I want him to give it his all.”

Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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