For both club and country, Kubo Takefusa‘s football career is in a delicate spot.
But at least one person believes it is a matter of time before he figures it out – a certain player by the name of Vinícius Junior.
“I’ve played with him in the past and he is a very skillful and a player with tremendous upside. I’m convinced of that,” Vinicius said ahead of Brazil’s 1-0 win over Japan in a friendly on Monday (6 June ) at the National Stadium in Tokyo.
“He will continue to perform well and continue to grow, and I look forward to the day he returns to Real.”
The match-winner of last month’s UEFA Champions League men’s final for Real Madrid against LiverpoolVinicius Jr joined the 14-time European champions in Spain one season ahead of Kubo.
The two have trained and spent preseasons together, but their fortunes could not be more contrasting at the moment.
Brazil winger Vinícius Junior against Japan in a friendly on Monday in Tokyo.
Picture by Yomiuri
Vinicius has remained in Madrid as an integral part of Carlo Ancelotti‘s plans, and is being groomed as the future of the Brazilian national side, an eventual successor to Neymar for the Selecao.
Kubo on other hand has spent the last three seasons on loan to three different La Liga clubs – Mallorca, Villareal, and Getafe – and has yet to don the heralded white shirt of Real Madrid in a competitive match.
Since Tokyo 2020 in 2021, where he came up painfully short of leading his country to their first men’s football medal since Mexico 1968Kubo has even lost his first-team place for Japan, unhelped by a knee injury following the Games.
Kubo – who turned 21 three days ago – remained rooted to the bench against Brazil on Monday while Vinicius was on the pitch, samba-dancing around the Japanese defense.
Coach Moriyasu Hajime used all six subs and yet Kubo played zero minutes as Japan made the world top-ranked team work for their 1-0 victory.
With uncertainty surrounding his future like never before, Kubo, who still drew the biggest cheers from the crowd of 63,000-plus during the team announcements, admitted he is indeed facing a challenge.
“I wouldn’t say everything has been picture perfect until now but it has been, more or less, within certain expectations I had,” he told reporters.
Kubo Takefusa crumbles to the pitch after Japan lose to Mexico in the Tokyo 2020 bronze-medal match.
Picture by Getty Images
“There certainly have been a few hiccups but for the most part, I’ve been on deadline so to speak. But this time, there’s a part of me that thinks not everything is adding up the way I want it to.”
Vinicius fully understands where Kubo is coming from.
“It was not easy, moving to a big club like Real Madrid. I managed to play in a lot of games from my first season but there were good days and bad days,” the former Flamengo star said.
“The manager always had faith in me and offered encouraging words. The style of football was completely different from Brazil and I had to adjust tactically. But I managed to win the championship as a result of all the work I put in up until 2022. “
It remains to be seen which club Kubo will play for next season, or his role at the World Cup in Qatar for Moriyasu’s men, who will be trying to reach the quarter-final stage.
But one thing is certain: Kubo is not about to be written off anytime soon.
“I never realized how tough it is to lose something you once had,” he said. “But it is what it is.
“The fact is, we’re coming together well as a team. The World Cup is always full of surprises and I hope I can be one of them.”