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Whatever happened to Barcelona’s ‘Japanese Messi’?

Hailed as the next ‘Lionel Messi’, Takefusa Kubo has become a distant memory for Barcelona fans, so what has happened the young talent?

In August 2011, Kubo at the tender age of 10 was subject to interest and scouting from the Catalan giants after impressing for the club’s Kawasaki based soccer school.

A massive impression during a competition in Belgium saw the youngster tipped to become one of Japan’s next superstars, following in the footsteps of Shinji Kagawa and Hidetoshi Nakata, who have both made a career in European football.

Invited to trial with Barca’s famed youth academy, La Masia, the tricky forward passed a trial and was quickly moved from his home country to the Catalonia region.

Playing for Barca’s Under-11 side, Kubo’s adaptation to life in a different country and with a different language was seamless, seeing him finish the season as top scorer, totalling a massive 74 goals in 30 league games.

Crowned the MVP in the Mediterranean Cup in the 2013/2014 season; talk had begun to take shape of his ability and potential rise through the ranks at the Camp Nou.

However, shortly after being promoted to the club’s Infantil A side at Under 14 level, Kubo was subject to an investigation by football’s governing body FIFA.

Barcelona at the time were under heavy investigation after failing to comply with rules over the transfers of youngster under the age of 18.

Kubo was highlighted in the case and given a banning order which saw his time at the club come to an abrupt and disappointing end.

Having failed to win an appeal, the youngster was forced to return to his home country, where he signed with FC Tokyo on a development deal.

A successful period saw him promoted to the senior side at 15, and he made his top flight debut at that age on September 2016.

In November 2017, FC Tokyo announced an update to Kubo’s contract improving it to pay him as a first-team member after seeing him impress at the club and for Japan on the international stage, being picked for the U20 side, despite his tender age.

It is fair to say, Kubo has done more than most at his age so far but the question now is if he can live up that tag once gained by those in Europe.

A move back to European soil is seemingly next on the agenda, but back to Barcelona? Who knows?

Whilst the club owe him after their transfer policy failings, the club have scouted their former starlet on few occasions and that could leave them red in the face if one of their big European rivals make a move first.

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