Takefusa Kubo is a Japanese winger who is currently contracted to La Liga outfit Real Sociedad, with his electric performances out wide alerting clubs across the continent such as Liverpool and Manchester United to make a move for the star.
On deadline day, sources confirmed to TEAMtalk that Man United intend to jump Liverpool in the race to sign Kubo as a potential replacement for Antony, whilst the club from Merseyside looks towards a long-term Mohamed Salah replacement.
The 22-year-old joined Real Sociedad in the summer of 2022 for a reported €6.50million (£5.5m) after spending three years contracted to Real Madrid.
He would fail to make an appearance for Los Blancos though, having four separate loan spells at fellow Spanish clubs Mallorca, Villarreal, Getafe and then Mallorca again before his switch to San Sebastian.
Any sale of Kubo, who has nine goal contributions in 18 league matches this campaign, would see Sociedad make a substantial profit, with a release clause of around €60m (£51.2m) being quoted.
Kubo’s career so far
Born and raised in Japan, during his youth career Kubo played for numerous clubs in Japan including Tokyo Verdy and Kawasaki Frontale, though in August 2009, he was awarded MVP at FC Barcelona Soccer Camp at the age of eight.
He was selected as a member of the FC Barcelona school team in April 2010 and played in the Sodexo European Rusas Cup held in Belgium, where he again was awarded MVP despite his team finishing third.
In August 2011, he joined Barcelona’s academy, La Masia, after a successful trial where in his first full season (2012-13), he was the league’s top goalscorer with 74 goals in 30 games.
Barcelona were found to have violated FIFA’s international transfer policy for under-18 youths, meaning Kubo was ineligible to play for the club, so he returned to his native Japan.
In 2017, he made his professional league debut in Japan for Tokyo Verdy at just 15 years, five months and one day and scored his first professional goal at 15 years and 10 months.
It didn’t take long for him to move back to Europe though, as in 2019 he made the switch to Barcelona’s fierce rivals Real Madrid where he was a prominent figure in the Spanish side’s pre-season squad.
Loans to the aforementioned Mallorca, Villarreal, Getafe and then Mallorca again meant Kubo had racked up almost 100 La Liga appearances prior to his move to Sociedad, which he made in the summer of 2022.
Since then, Kubo has scored 15 and assisted 13 in 70 first-team games for Real Sociedad, becoming one of their key players in the process as they fight for a European place.
What is Kubo like as a player?
Standing at 1.73m (5ft 8in), Kubo is at his best when the ball is at his feet. Able to play out wide on either flank or as a No 10 behind the striker, he plays the majority of his football when out wide on the right where he can cut in on his left.
His low centre of gravity and agility makes him tricky to dispossess, with his quick feet and flair making him a nightmare for defenders to deal with.
When played out wide on the right, he prefers to drift in towards the centre where he can be more effective instead of making the runs to the byline before cutting the ball back across the box, allowing an overlapping full-back to do that role instead.
Kubo has a sharp eye for a pass and is an unselfish player, as he would rather pick out a pass for a teammate in a better position rather than take on a chance himself, though he is not afraid to try and score for distance should an opportunity to do so arrive.
The Japanese international’s work rate is immense. As pressing is becoming more and more important in the modern game, Kubo is not impartial to doing his job off of the ball as well as on it.
Like a certain Arjen Robben, Kubo loves to cut in on his left foot on the right side before either taking a shot on goal towards the far corner or crossing towards a teammate.
Whilst far from the finished product, the 22-year-old still has ample time to improve his game and has all of the raw abilities to become one of the best attackers in the world.
Where will Kubo go?
Antony has had a poor time at Old Trafford since joining from Ajax in 2022 for €95m (£81m), picking up more yellow cards (12) than goals scored (9) for the Red Devils and Erik ten Hag is already reportedly looking to replace the misfiring Brazilian.
His €60m (£51.2m) release clause is well within United’s price range, so a move to Manchester should not be ruled out for the Sociedad sensation.
Liverpool have been the other club most prominently linked with Kubo, though with Jurgen Klopp announcing his departure at the end of the season, transfer business may be put on hold until a replacement for the German has been confirmed.
With Mohamed Salah now 31, the Egyptian will surely begin to slow down in the coming years, though he has yet to show clear signs of regression with 14 goals and eight assists in 20 Premier League games this season alone.
That does not mean that Liverpool will not prepare for life without their Egyptian king though, with Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota having replaced Roberto Firmino’s output, while Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo have been able to cover the left-wing role Sadio Mane left behind.
The Merseyside giants don’t have another naturally left-footed forward in their squad currently, though the acquisition of Kubo would provide exactly that.
At just 22 years old, a pressing machine and a team player, Kubo and Liverpool could be a match made in heaven.
This Take Kubo finish against Girona was top class. 💫🇯🇵pic.twitter.com/evTqlvxNiA
— LaLigaExtra (@LaLigaExtra) February 1, 2024