Kubo made his LaLiga debut as a late substitute for Mallorca at Valencia in early September, with the 18-year-old showing glimpses of quality even as his team went down to a 0-2 defeat.
A technically excellent attacking midfielder with a creative spark and liking for hard work, Kubo is already a senior international with Japan. He is expected to play an important role as the newly promoted island side aim to make a splash in LaLiga Santander this season.
Born in Kawasaki on 4th June 2001, Kubo is no stranger to Spanish football, having entered Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy aged just 10. He scored a whopping 74 goals in 30 games during his first season in Barcelona, impressing at each youth team rank until he returned to his home country in March 2015.
Kubo’s fast development continued at FC Tokyo’s U-23 side, where the following November he became the youngest player to ever debut in the J1 League (15 years, 5 months and 1 day). A goal against Cerezo Osaka the following April made him the youngest ever scorer in the competition (15 years, 10 months and 11 days).
After a spell on loan at hometown club Yokohama F Marinos, the 2019 J League season saw Kubo emerge as a regular goalscorer and creator for FC Tokyo’s senior side. So it was no surprise that, after turning 18 in June, he returned to Europe and LaLiga, with his signing a big coup for Barcelona’s arch-rivals Real Madrid.
June also saw the skilful left-footer make his senior international debut in a friendly against El Salvador, making him the second-youngest player ever to earn a full cap with the Samurai Blue. He then featured in all three of Japan’s games at this summer’s Copa America in Brazil, as the invited Asian guests achieved notable draws against Uruguay and Ecuador.
Kubo was initially expected to spend this season with Real Madrid’s Castilla youth team in Spain’s third tier while training with Blancos coach Zinedine Zidane’s senior side. But his immediate impact during the senior side’s pre-season outings drew interest from several LaLiga Santander clubs and it was decided that a year at Mallorca would best help him develop and settle on and off the pitch.
Vicente Moreno’s well-organised team celebrated their return to LaLiga Santander with a rousing 2-1 victory against Eibar on opening day, then competed well but were ultimately edged out in tight defeats to Real Sociedad and Valencia. Kubo’s run from the bench at Mestalla made him the third Japanese player in Mallorca’s history, after Yoshito Okubo and Akihiro Ienaga.
Next summer is likely to see Kubo feature for his country at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, with the long-term plan including a return to the Bernabeu to join Madrid’s first team. For now, though, the quietly confident character is focused on helping Mallorca continue their impressive start to the campaign. And LaLiga Santander fans at San Moix and elsewhere are keen to see more of the skills and goals, which this rising star always delivers.