• Transfers

Official: Barcelona agree deal for Japanese star Hiroki Abe

Getty Images

Barcelona have struck a deal with Kashima Antlers to sign the highly-rated Japanese star Hiroki Abe.

After joining Kashima in 2017 straight out of high school, Abe has embarked on an impressive rise in Japanese football and won the J-League’s Rookie of the Year award last season.

The 20-year-old primarily operates down the left wing, but his versatility enables him to play down the right flank or as a second striker. He’s eye-catching dribbling skills and attacking instincts have proven to be a lethal combination over in Japan.

Abe also proved instrumental in Kashima’s glorious AFC Champions League campaign last season.

Now, Kashima confirmed on their website that a basic agreement has been reached for the talented youngster to join Barcelona. As Abe has already agreed on personal terms, the only thing left to make the deal official is a successful medical.

“I have spent two-and-a-half years since graduating from high school at Kashima Antlers, and I was able to grow as a human being and as a professional soccer player,” said Abe on Kashima’s Twitter.

“The fact that I was able to fight for my own pride makes it a difficult decision to leave the team this season, but I (have) decided to make a new move to Barcelona.”

On the challenges that await him at Barcelona, Abe said: “I believe that the various difficulties and barriers I will face from now on are also absolutely necessary for my growth.

“I would like to face football, thank you very much.”

Abe becomes the second young Japanese star to arrive in La Liga this summer following Real Madrid’s capture of the “Japanese Messi” Takefusa Kubo.

It’s likely Barcelona will move Abe into their reserve team once he finally completes his transfer. Although there is a possibility he could feature for the first-team towards the end of next season.

The three-time Japan international managed 10 goals and seven assists in 79 appearances for Kashima.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – JUNE 17: Hiroki Abe of Japan competes for the ball against Guillermo Maripan of Chile during the Copa America Brazil 2019 group C match between Japan and Chile at Morumbi Stadium on June 17, 2019 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alessandra Cabral/Getty Images)