Real Madrid had signed another young Japanese sensation, Takefusa Kubo, who has been dubbed the Japanese Lionel Messi and actually played at Barcelona’s La Masia academy before returning to Japan.

Kubo in Barca colours

Barcelona also have their own Japanese import in the form of Hiroki Abe.

Abe will play for Barcelona’s B team in the third tier at first but will be closely monitored by the first team officials.

Abe is Barca property

He has a €40 million release clause in his contract, which will rise to €100 million when he joins the senior side.

Japanese football is on the up, especially given that there are more and more Japanese players playing in the top five European leagues.

This new wave of players is no coincidence, rather it is the fruits of an elaborate strategy that the Japanese Football Association put in place towards the end of the 1990s.

As a result of this, Japan hope to build a team that it is capable of winning the World Cup in 2050 and a domestic league that produces teams good enough to compete with the European leagues by 2030.

Every club that participates in the J1 League is obliged to develop its own academy and to have a minimum of two youth teams.

Premier League and Ligue 1 all have one each.

As for LaLiga Santander, Shoji Jo was the first Japanese player to play in Spain as he featured for Real Valladolid. Since then, another nine Japanese players have played for various Spanish teams.

Can Kubo make his name at Real?

The Bundesliga has had a whopping 31 Japanese players over the years.

Japan reached the knockout stages of the World Cup for the sixth consecutive time in 2018, before they got knocked out in a hard-fought match against Belgium.