The ups and downs of Kubo Takefusa

Kubo Takefusa is a young football player who has been through a lot in his career. He has shown a lot of promise and potential that the world has put on his shoulders. At the same time, this burden has weighed down on him as expectations continue to rise every passing day.

This is his story.

The wunderkind from Japan

Kubo currently plays with LaLiga club Real Sociedad and the Japanese men’s senior football team. And he is only 21 years old. But first, let us turn back the clock; back to 2008 when he was only seven.

The winger started his youth career with FC Persimmon, a football club based in Kawasaki, the city where he was born. A year later, he was the MVP in a camp organized by FC Barcelona.

In 2010, Kubo was part of the Barcelona School team that competed in a youth cup in Belgium. Once again, he was the MVP.

These achievements and a successful trial resulted in him being invited to La Masia, the youth academy of Barça, the following year. Before that, he was playing for the age group squads of Tokyo Verdy and Kawasaki Frontale between 2008 and 2011.

Simply put, he has frontloaded and put up a lot of miles. And he has not been to Spain yet.

His time with the Blaugrana and FC Tokyo

In his first full season with the blue and red, Kubo became the top goalscorer with 74 goals in 30 games played. He was with them until 2015 when the club encountered issues with FIFA regarding youth transfers.

He then returned to Japan and played for FC Tokyo’s junior team. By 2016, he was splitting time between the first team and the U-23 squad, making his professional debut at 15 years, five months, and one day, a J.League record for the youngest player ever to see action.

In April 2017, Kubo became the youngest goalscorer in Japan’s top professional football league at 15 years and ten months. A month before the 2017 season ended, the Gas restructured his contract, improving his wages and paying him as a first-team player.

He was then loaned to Yokohama F Marinos in 2018. He had six total appearances, scoring one goal. His best stint at the J1 League was in 2019, where he had five goals in 16 matches in all competitions for Tokyo.

Real Madrid and his journey around Spain

Kubo was picked up by Barcelona’s rival Real Madrid in the summer transfer window of 2019. A lot was expected of him, as he was with the first team during the preseason despite being registered in the U-19 roster.

What happened instead was that he was loaned out to other clubs. He first joined RCD Mallorca on a season-long loan, becoming the third Japanese player to wear their colors.

Kubo made his Primera División premiere on 1 September 2019, playing 15 minutes in a 0-1 defeat to Valencia CF. He scored his first goal in the Spanish top flight two months later, a 3-1 victory over Villarreal CF. He finished his first time with Los Piratas with four goals, seeing the pitch in 36 matches.

The 2020-21 season turned out to be adventurous as he was loaned to two clubs: Villarreal and Getafe CF. He scored a UEFA Europa League goal for El Submarí Groguet, and he also had one in a league fixture for Getafe. All in all, he got to play 37 matches during the competitive calendar, including five at the UEL.

Takefusa made his way back to Mallorca in 2021, where he compiled two goals in 31 appearances. In the succeeding year, he signed with Real Sociedad de Fútbol, SAD.

Japan’s national team experience

Kubo has been part of the national football program since 2015, playing with the country’s age-level teams until he was called up for the senior squad in 2019. He joined the Japan U-20 national team that participated in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

His first taste of senior-level action was at the 2019 Copa América. He made his debut by subbing Minamino Takumi in the 67th minute, in a tuneup match against El Salvador several days before the tournament commenced.

Kubo was included in the 2020 Olympic squad that finished fourth. He notched three goals for the host country.

He has one international senior-level goal to date, a conversion against Ghana at the 2022 Kirin Cup Soccer.

Where to, Kubo?

All the words above are just the introduction, and his tale is just beginning.

Still in his early 20s, Kubo has barely scratched the surface. He can become the modern-day personification of Oozora Tsubasa, the main character of the anime “Captain Tsubasa” if that is what fate dictates.

Alas, there is this nagging feeling that he has already plateaued. The period of his (one can say nonexistent) career with Real Madrid can be considered a missed opportunity.

There he was, developed in Spain’s most prestigious football youth academy and later signed by its biggest rival. Yet, he had nothing to show for it aside from loan spells to relatively lower LaLiga clubs.

Because of this, his spot for the 2022 FIFA World Cup spot could be in peril. Even he recognizes the position he is in.

“I would not say everything has been picture perfect until now, but it has been, more or less, within certain expectations I had,” he said after a 2022 Kirin Challenge Cup match between Japan and Brazil. “There certainly have been a few hiccups, but for the most part, I have been on deadline so to speak. But this time, there is a part of me that thinks not everything is adding up the way I want it to.”

However, hope springs eternal. Kubo is still young; there is still a lot ahead of him.

“We (the Japanese national team) are coming together well as a team,” he mentioned. “The World Cup is always full of surprises, and I hope I can be one of them.”