Just recently, Real Madrid sent shockwaves through Spain when they officially confirmed the signing of young Japanese starlet Takefusa Kubo.
Sure, signing young stars is nothing out of the ordinary but this particular gem was a player who was previously at Barcelona. Needless to say, that made the deal all the sweeter.
After all, we are talking about the kid dubbed the “Japanese Messi”, and while there’s been no shortage of “future Messis” in the past, Kubo is one many are putting their faith in to become the next big thing.
But what exactly makes the 18-year-old starlet such a big prize for Real Madrid and do his skills warrant all those big claims?
Kubo is a prolific attacking midfielder who’s famous for his extraordinary technical ability, close control of the ball, passing prowess, versatility and dribbling. At just 18, the Japanese gem is already showing signs of traits that many associate with Messi, while he is fairly similar to the Argentine in both his stature and style.
Being just 5ft 8, Kubo is rather short but extremely agile and blessed with pace. When he plays he oozes flair and has a strong left foot, just like Messi. But his technical side is best seen when passing and moving. According to Wyscout’s database – that goes back three years for the youngster – on average he averages a pass completion rate of 77.8% and he also plays 1.57 long passes per game.
But that doesn’t particularly do him justice. Upon further inspection of those passing stats, we see 1.88 through balls. Let’s take a quick look how that usually transpires on the pitch.
Since Kubo is blessed with both pace and technical ability, he can receive the ball under pressure, shake off his markers and make progressive runs into the final third. Once he is in position, he is capable of playing pinpoint through balls.
But none of that would be possible without his dribbling abilities. As we can read out from Wyscout’s stats above, Kubo averaged a massive 8.02 dribbles per game across all competitions while successfully completing 50.2% of all of them. That’s four completed dribbles per game for the young 18-year-old midfielder.
We also have to note that he doesn’t just beat his markers one on one but he won’t shy away from taking on multiple defenders at the same time. Notice in the example below how he blazes through three defenders in a zig-zag move and gets into the box with seamless ease. This puts him just in front of the goalkeeper but unfortunately he misses his target in the end.
And finally, we have to mention Kubo’s versatility. He is an attacking midfielder first and foremost but that doesn’t mean he cannot be deployed elsewhere as well. Since he’s got pace and technical prowess on the ball, he can operate all over midfield as well as in the more advanced areas of the pitch.
Wyscout’s database has him in at least three major positions on the pitch but, judging by his heatmap, he likes to have the licence to roam the pitch and wreak havoc wherever he can. We can also see that there’s a slight tendency to drop deeper when needed, meaning he provides backup for his teammates when fuelling the build-up and assisting the progression of the ball.
Real Madrid themselves have described their new gem as a player who is “technical ability personified” and “a highly talented player boasting immense quality” and also one that “displays great intelligence when it comes to decision-making, gets away from his marker with ease and links up well with teammates.”
That statement, as we’ve hopefully been able to demonstrate in this scout report, might just hold true.
Kubo’s future certainly looks very bright if the early signs are anything to go by.
The talent is certainly there but it remains to be seen whether he fulfils it and truly becomes the “Japanese Messi”.