While the night ended in a 4-0 defeat for Mallorca, Takefusa Kubo enhanced his reputation by proving his mettle against FC Barcelona.
Being burdened with the nickname ‘Japanese Messi‘ is something Takefusa Kubo shouldn’t have to bear. It’s almost cruel in some ways, placing huge and perhaps unrealistic expectations on the lad.
An impressive pre-season for Real Madrid and his growing star status in his native Japan then unleased a state of ‘Kubomania’. All that died down, however, by the minute he joined Mallorca on loan.
Aware of his limited first-team opportunities and keen to escape the spotlight, Kubo signed on the dotted line for Mallorca. For the youngster, it was an ideal opportunity.
While interest from his homeland remains strong, Take has lived a relatively quiet life in Palma. The ‘Kubomania’ calmed down in Spain, enabling him to focus on his first season as a La Liga footballer.
The 19-year-old has since overcome a sluggish start to insert himself as a regular in the Mallorca line-up. His first campaign of Spanish football has been all right up to this point, with 25 appearances under his belt.
Playing for a team scrapping for survival is never an easy thing for any player. But Kubo has made the best of the situation, delivering a round of consistently strong performances recently.
Proves his mettle
Saturday night’s display against Barcelona gave fans another timely reminder of the teenager’s quality. He looked the real deal out there; handing the Blaugrana defence problems during the first-half.
Takefusa Kubo showed his old club what they missed out on by keeping Jordi Alba and Marc-Andre ter Stegen on their toes.
Takefusa Kubo’s first half vs. Barcelona by numbers:
83% pass accuracy
3/3 shots on target
2 ball recoveries
Ran his side’s attack singlehandedly at times. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/tB1j1DDzln
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) June 13, 2020
The Japanese star forced Ter Stegen into a brilliant save with a left-footed shot in the match. He then fired a venomous free-kick towards the Barcelona goal moments later, pushing the German into another save.
All Mallorca’s three on targets shots, in fact, were taken by Kubo.
He also managed a team-best of six crosses, two dribbles, one through ball and even made an interception.
Despite Kubo’s best efforts, however, Mallorca fell to their 17th defeat of the La Liga season. A Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona was simply too much for Vicente Moreno’s men.
Arturo Vidal took less than two minutes to open the away side’s account before Martin Braithwaite added a second. Alba and Messi then scored late in the second-half, sealing a convincing 4-0 victory.
But Kubo’s first-half performance at least proved he can hold his own against one of the world’s best teams; proving that a bright future lies ahead for him in the game.
Takefusa Kubo p90 in La Liga this season:
2.9 shot-creating actions
2.9 fouls suffered
2.1 succ. take-ons
1.6 tackles won
An unbelievably gifted teenager. 🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/1TMKCdcNSD
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) June 13, 2020
“As a left-footed player, Kubo has a privilege and he carries a gift that God gave him, that quality he has to play and to control,” Mallorca assistant coach Dani Pendin told journalist Agustin Commisso.
“He also has a lot of speed, be it in short bursts or long sprints, and a very good strike.”
Hard times lie ahead for Mallorca
Just four points are all that separate Eibar, Celta Vigo, Mallorca, Leganes and Espanyol respectively in the battle for survival in La Liga.
One look at Mallorca’s fixture list, however, suggests there could be trouble as Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla will be coming up in their last 10 matches of the season.
While hopes of catching Barcelona off guard following a three-month hiatus quickly faded. The LaLiga leaders quickly imposed themselves on Mallorca, dominating the opening period in style. Vidal and Braithwaite’s first-half goals were thoroughly deserved.
There was somewhat of a Mallorca resurgence for a brief period, which involved Kubo hounding the visitors’ defence. But overall the Messi-inspired Barca was too much to handle.
“They moved the ball very quickly,” said Los Bermellones boss Moreno.
“The atmosphere and the goal conceded in the first minute didn’t helped. Then we had times when we got things right.
“They’ve a lot of quality and, as time went on, they converted their chances and it became harder. The day would have been good if the team had won.
“If the result is negative then you look at the other results, but to beat the drop we have to win. We must go week by week and not fail.”