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Ones to Watch | Number 7: Takefusa Kubo, the ‘Japanese Messi’

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Ones to Watch | Number 7: Takefusa Kubo

In a football world filled with countless stars of today, so many of us are curious about who is waiting in the wings. That search for that next wonderkid; a youngster that has the potential to make us stand up and marvel at how they are masters of their craft despite their tender age, is always on the minds of millions of fans around the world.

With this in mind, we at 101 Great Goals will be bringing you another weekly series taking a look at players across the world that are 21-years-old or younger. Some of them you will have no doubt heard of, while we hope to bring you a few new names to spark your curiosities every now and then.

 

Name: Takefusa Kubo

Age: 20-years-old

Position: Right-wing

Place of Birth: Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan

Citizenship: Japan

National team caps: 15

Current club: RCD Mallorca (on-loan from Real Madrid)

Current Market Value (per Transfermarkt): €9million

Potential suitor(s): Various

Japan has a storied history of being a nation that has a knack for being a neutral fan favorite at the international level as Samurai Blue entertains as a country that regularly showcases a collective talent that most have hardly heard of.

That trend began to spread to leagues across Europe in the late 1990s when Kazuyoshi Miura as well as budding talent Hidetoshi Nakata became just the first-two Japanese players to feature in Serie A when they arrived at Genoa and AC Perugia respectively. Though Miura would spend just one year in Italy before returning to Japan, Nakata would go on to ply trade for AS Roma, Parma, Bologna, and Fiorentina across a credible career that helped breached a barrier for talented Japanese footballers to flood through.

And it did not take long, either. The likes of Shunsuke Nakamura, Keisuke Honda, and Shinji Kagawa headlined a national player pool of technical talents admired by the likes of Arsène Wenger that would eventually make their way to the top clubs across the continent and staring on some of Europe’s biggest nights. Long-linked as being the next big name to emerge from Japan, Takefusa Kubo has large boots to fill.

Already starring at the age of seven at youth level in tournaments outside of Japan’s borders, Kubo joined the youth ranks of local outfit and J League club Kawasaki Frontale at 9-years-old in 2010 but would only spend a single year in the academy set up before joining Barcelona’s La Masia academy set up for four years. After returning home and joining FC Tokyo’s academy due to sanctions placed on Barça, his notoriety continued to grow when he performed stoutly for the club’s U-23 side before making his full debut in 2016. In doing so, Kubo became the youngest player in J League history at 15-years and 5-months.

Five months later, Kubo set another record while in Tokyo red and blue, becoming the youngest goalscorer in J League history. After a quick loan with Yokohama F.Marinos, global giants Real Madrid would come calling on a free transfer in 2019.

Kubo would then set another record after securing a loan move to RDC Mallorca after dazzling for Madrid in their pre-season tour, becoming the youngest Japanese player (18-years, 159-days) to score a goal in any of Europe’s top-five leagues.

Dubbed the ‘Japanese Messi,’ great things have been expected of Kubo for years, but his club career has hardly gone the way of stardom despite his rise to prominence as a youngster. He had a credible first loan stint with Mallorca where he bagged 4-goals and added 5-assists across a combined 36-appearances during the 2019-20 season.

Ones to Watch | Number 7: Takefusa Kubo

GETAFE, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 22: Take Kubo of RCD Mallorca celebrates a goal of Budimir (off frame) during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and RCD Mallorca at Coliseum Alfonso Perez on September 22, 2019 in Getafe, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

His spells with Villarreal CF and Getafe CF were far less impressive, and up to the conclusion of the 2020-21 season, Kubo had yet to make a single appearance for Madrid since his arrival. At current, he is once again on loan and back with Mallorca and though he missed eight league matches with a meniscal injury, he started 15 of a possible 23 matches he was available for and is widely considered to be the most influential pieces in the Els Pirates squad under manager Javier Aguirre.

A deadly combination of pace and technical ability make him a force to be reckoned with, while his tactical versatility allowed Aguirre as well as Japanese national team manager Hajime Moriyasu to utilize him on either flank as well as in a central attacking role.

With Madrid widely expected to retool this summer by targeting French starlet Kylian Mbappé and needing to offload a cadre of players in the hopes of recouping somewhere in the region of €100million through the sales of players the likes of Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, and Isco, Kubo could also be on the unwanted list at the Santiago Bernabeu. Thankfully for Kubo, his age profile and footballing education should make him a hotly-contested signing given the low fee he is likely to command.

Valued at just €9million by Transfermarkt and a full Japanese international while not yet reaching his twenty-first birthday, there is still more than enough time for Takefusa Kubo to finally build a profile that many back at home will have long waited for.






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Tottenham to tackle left-back concern amid Sergio Reguilon uncertainty

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Sergio Reguilon future with Tottenham uncertain amid potential summer exit

After securing Champions League football for next season by finishing fourth in the Premier League, Tottenham is in a strong position to strengthen the first team under popular manager Antonio Conte this summer but may have to contend with the loss of first-choice left-back Sergio Reguilón in the process.

The Spanish international has largely enjoyed a good spell in north London over the last two seasons with Tottenham after arriving from Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2020, but could now be set to part ways with Conte’s side after Football.London’s Alasdair Gold stated that the club feels there is a chance he could move on this summer.

A return to the Spanish capital could be on the cards given the fact that Real does possess a buy-back clause, but there is also rumored interest from Xavi’s Barcelona who is also in the hunt for first-team improvements in Catalunya and could do well to recruit a more long-term option on the left side of the defense part from Jordi Alba.

With Reguilón’s future cast in fresh doubt at Tottenham, recent links to Eintracht Frankfurt’s Filip Kostić now have more clarity after it emerged yesterday that the versatile Serbian attacker was drawing attention from both Conte and club director of football Fabio Paratici.

Kostić just recently helped Die Adler secure a Europa League win at the expense of Glasgow Rangers, but the 29-year-old has just one year left at the club and could certainly be viewed as the ideal Reguilón replacement with his ability to be deployed in a wide variety of roles on the left flank.

After Tottenham received a massive financial boost this summer with an additional £150million of equity being made available to help Conte truly build the first team in his image, one in one out on the left side of the defense could be just the place for the Italian to start.


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Liverpool forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane provide updates on their future amid contract talks

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Liverpool forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane provide updates on their future amid contract talks

Mohamed Salah has confirmed that he will be at Liverpool next season irrespective of his contract situation, while Sadio Mane has cast doubt on his future in comments made by the pair before the Champions League final.

The pair are currently part of a Liverpool squad looking to bounce back from Premier League heartbreak before their trip to Paris as they look to crown their cup treble this season with a Champions League win against Real Madrid.

Beyond that, however, the club have less clarity. All of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are out of contract in 2023 and have shown no signs of extending their current deals at Anfield this season.

Salah, however, who finished top goalscorer and creator in the Premier League, has confirmed that he will not be leaving this summer, though he did nothing to dampen the suggestion that he may leave the club on a free in 2023.

‘I am staying at Liverpool next season for sure, that’s clear. In my mind, I don’t focus on contract right now’, he revealed.

‘I don’t want to be selfish, it’s not the right moment to speak about the contract’,

Mane’s mind on Madrid

And, forward partner Sadio Mane, who has hit a rich vein of form as a no.9 for Liverpool in the latter stages of this season, was even more non-commital, simply telling reporters that he will discuss the situation with the club following Saturday’s final.

‘There will be new discussions at the end of the season. I’ll answer after Champions League final’, he claimed.

Mane has been linked with a move to Bayern Munich this summer in recent weeks, though whether such a move will materialise is another matter entirely.

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Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 Manchester City 38 73 93
2 Liverpool FC 38 68 92
3 Chelsea FC 38 43 74
4 Tottenham Hotspur 38 29 71
5 Arsenal FC 38 13 69
6 Manchester United 38 0 58
7 West Ham United 38 9 56
8 Leicester City 38 3 52
9 Brighton & Hove Albion 38 -2 51
10 Wolverhampton Wanderers 38 -5 51
11 Newcastle United 38 -18 49
12 Crystal Palace 38 4 48
13 Brentford FC 38 -8 46
14 Aston Villa 38 -2 45
15 Southampton FC 38 -24 40
16 Everton FC 38 -23 39
17 Leeds United 38 -37 38
18 Burnley FC 38 -19 35
19 Watford FC 38 -43 23
20 Norwich City 38 -61 22
Player Team Goals
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 23
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur 23
Ronaldo, Cristiano Manchester United 18
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur 17
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 16
De Bruyne, Kevin Manchester City 15
Jota, Diogo Liverpool FC 15
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City 15
Zaha, Wilfried Crystal Palace 14
Sterling, Raheem Manchester City 13
Bowen, Jarrod West Ham United 12
Maddison, James Leicester City 12
Toney, Ivan Brentford FC 12
Mount, Mason Chelsea FC 11
Saka, Bukayo Arsenal FC 11
Mahrez, Riyad Manchester City 11
Richarlison Everton FC 11
Pukki, Teemu Norwich City 11
Raphinha Leeds United 11
Watkins, Ollie Aston Villa 11





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Who should they keep, who should they sell?

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Manchester City squad assessment: Who should they keep, who should they sell?

2021/22 was an impressive season for Manchester City who claimed their 6th Premier League title.

The Sky Blues did not perform as well in the cup competitions and the Champions League continues to elude them, but Pep Guardiola and co. are no doubt confident of finally winning the competition next season.

Between then, though, is a summer transfer window which will see City given a chance to fine-tune their squad. But who should Pep keep and who should be shipped out the door? 101 have taken a look at every senior Manchester City player and decided if they should be kept or sold.

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Goalkeepers

Ederson

Had an excellent 2021/22 that saw him clinch the Golden Boot. He is the perfect goalkeeper for Pep Guardiola’s style of play.

Verdict: Keep

Zack Steffen

Has some work to do with the ball at his feet but he is a useful back-up option to Ederson.

Verdict: Keep

Scott Carson

Only made one appearance last season but is a useful character to have around the squad and Pep seems to be a fan. His wage is also unlikely to be burning a whole in City’s budget.

Verdict: Keep

Defenders

Kyle Walker

Remains a crucial part of Manchester City’s defence with his blistering pace often a key reason why Man City do not get hit on the counter that often despite playing such a high line.

Verdict: Keep

Joao Cancelo

A sensational full-back whose runs into midfield are key to City’s ability to break a side down.

Verdict: Keep

Ruben Dias

Obviously a brilliant central defender still, in theory, yet to enter the prime of his career.

Verdict: Keep

Aymeric Laporte

An excellent left-footed option to have at centre-back. Can also do a job at left-back if needed. Has plenty of experience and can cover for Dias if he is out.

Verdict: Keep

John Stones

Has had some sketchy moments during his time in a Man City shirt but has really come into his own over the last year or so. Was keeping Laporte, previously City’s best centre-back, out of the side before his injury.

Verdict: Keep

Nathan Ake

Costing over £40m he is one of the most expensive squad players out there, but he does his job well. Ake is a useful option to have when Pep wants to rest the above trio in cup ties against weaker sides or in the Premier League vs teams like Norwich, Watford etc.

Verdict: Keep

Oleksandr Zinchenko

Not the fastest option out there and can sometimes be lacking defensively. Like all Manchester City full-backs though, his ability to step into midfield to help overload the opponent is impressive and as City are short-staffed at full-back, he should be kept for now.

Verdict: Keep

Midfielders

Rodri

Rodri had a slow start to life in England but he has grown into the Fernandinho role very well, tactical fouling and all.

The Spaniard is firmly cemented as one of the Premier League’s best no.6s, combining an aggressive tackle with pin-point passing.

Verdict: Keep

Ilkay Gundogan

There is talk that Gundogan could be set to leave Manchester City this summer. However, if they can, the Sky Blues should retain the German’s services for 2022/23.

Gundogan’s runs for deep, as shown vs Aston Villa on the final day, lead to plenty of chances and goals and could be even more crucial next term when most of the opposing defences are expected to be focused on Erling Haaland.

Verdict: Keep

Phil Foden

Foden should obviously be kept. The 21-year-old was named the Premier League’s Young Player of the Season and he is expected to be challenging for the main award in the next few years. He is a sensational talent who can pretty much do it all.

Verdict: Keep

Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne is arguably the best passer of the ball in Europe. Some of the balls he is able to pull off simply boggle the mind. He has also started to add more goals to his game, finishing this past campaign as Manchester City’s top scorer in the Premier League.

Verdict: Keep

Bernardo Silva

Like Gundogan, question marks surround Bernardo Silva heading into the summer window. However, he too should be kept on. When KDB is injured or rested the Portuguese fills his role perfectly.

And even when De Bruyne and Silva start together, Silva’s job remains a crucial one, dropping deeper to form a double pivot with Rodri when City do not have the ball then using his dribbling ability to bring the ball out from deep to start attacks.

Verdict: Keep

Cole Palmer

Was not afforded too many chances in 2021/22 but is clearly a bright talent and may benefit from a loan move.

Verdict: Keep

Forwards

Raheem Sterling

Sterling has been a great servant for Manchester City and is only the second player – after Sergio Aguero – to score 50 or more Premier League goals at the Etihad.

However, Sterling’s future has been up in the air for a while, and now Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez are set to link up with City, it may be time for Sterling to move on as Foden and Grealish can cover the left-wing whilst the aforementioned new signings will be City’s strikers, rather than using someone like Sterling in a false-nine.

Verdict: Sell

Jack Grealish

2021/22 was by no means a great season for Jack Grealish, but selling him off so quickly would be foolish.

The likes of Rodri, Riyad Mahrez, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva all took a season to show their best form in Pep’s system and the same is expected of Grealish.

Verdict: Keep

Riyad Mahrez

Despite being 31, Mahrez remains a key part of City’s success, especially in the Champions League. The Algerian scored seven and assisted two in 12 European outings this campaign and finished 2021/22 as City’s top scorer overall.

Verdict: Keep

Gabriel Jesus

Like Sterling, the arrival of Haaland and Alvarez means there is much less of a need for Jesus going forward.

Yes, he could get some minutes from the right, but Man City would probably just be better served cashing in on the Brazilian and then bringing in a natural right-winger.

Verdict: Sell


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