“Japanese Messi” Kubo becomes J.League’s youngest player

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Takefusa Kubo

Highly-anticipated Japanese midfielder  became the youngest-ever J.League player on Saturday when he debuted for U-23 in the .

The former Barcelona trainee came on after halftime in the team’s 2-1 loss to AC Nagano Parceiro, playing an error-free 45 minutes during which he created several chances while facing players more than twice his age. His appearance at the age of 15 years, five months, and one day broke the J.League record set by former Japan striker Takayuki Morimoto at Tokyo Verdy in 2004 as well as the J3 record set by teammate Rei Hirakawa last weekend.

“I still have a lot of room to improve,” said Kubo, who has been dubbed the ‘Japanese Messi’ by local media. “I wasn’t able to take any shots and I didn’t participate in the attack as much as I could have, so I would give myself a 15 or 20 (out of 100).

“I was able to experience playing at a high level and now I understand what I need to do to reach it.”

Kubo’s historic day played out in front of 7,653 fans at Komazawa Olympic Stadium, a welcome sight for the J.League as it look to draw more attention to its third division, . The match was covered by 182 members of the media according to the J.League, numbers rarely seen in Japan outside of cup finals or national team games.

“It’s great for the league to have a player who can draw this much attention,” league chairman Mitsuru Murai told reporters. “I hope to see (Kubo) playing in the J1 soon.”