As with every summer, the debate of Takefusa Kubo’s future is a hot topic in the offices of Valdebebas and with good reason. Now entering into the two final years of his contract, he is ripe to be sold and it comes at a time when yet another loan spell has failed to make the most of the 21-year-old’s talents.
Ramón Álvarez de Mon, of Radio MARCA, says that Real Sociedad are in talks with Real Madrid over a deal for the Japanese international which could well be a permanent deal with an option to buy Kubo back.
Yet, there will be doubters of such a move. Kubo was one of the most exciting young talents in the world when he chose Real Madrid over Barcelona in 2019, and some remain loyal to the idea of being patient with his talents.
Here, we’ll analyse whether a move to Real Sociedad would be in his, and Real Madrid’s, best interests.
Yes - Kubo would thrive at Real Sociedad
Kubo needs minutes, but he’s ready for them. It’s easy to forget that Kubo celebrated his 21st birthday only three weeks ago and he remains a very young player with 140 first team appearances and 18 senior international caps under his belt.
La Real could be the perfect place. They are a side who will not be on the back foot in games, a situation Kubo has found to be few and far between since fighting relegation with Mallorca (twice) and Getafe, while barely featuring for Villarreal.
Real Sociedad need a winger, too. The departure of Adnan Januzaj after the expiry of his contract at the Reale Arena, followed by Portu moving to Getafe, mean that there are positions open in the team’s attack.
Imanol Alguacil is a coach renowned for his development of young players to get the very best out of them. Players like Mikel Oyarzabal, Mikel Merino, Robin Le Normand and Alexander Isak have all thrived and gained a regular first team presence under his mentorship. He could be the coach to finally get through to Kubo and help him to fulfill his potential.
That reputation has led to the building of a young squad. At 25 years and 6 months average age, Real Sociedad have the second youngest squad in LaLiga. That kind of atmosphere could give Kubo a chance to shine, completely opposed to what he’s encountered elsewhere. Even still, in David Silva, he has an offensive midfield to learn from.
The good relationship between the two clubs is also an important factor. Real Madrid are reportedly pushing for a buy-back clause if the deal is a permanent one, and that relationship could be crucial to getting a deal over the line on Real Madrid’s terms and keeping the door open to a possible return.
No - Kubo won’t succeed at Real Sociedad
“He has to adapt to grow and compete in other areas and positions. He is a star off the field, but he needs to be one on it too,” said Unai Emery before Kubo’s loan at Villarreal was cut short.
“Kubo is a player who needs to grow and improve physically, getting into other areas and helping the team,” José Bordalás said while the Japan international was at Getafe.
“He was going to start in the week, then I watched him at training and I didn’t like it at all,” explained Mallorca coach Javier Aguirre after leaving him out.
Three coaches in a row all voicing complaints about Kubo’s work rate doesn’t well if Kubo is to now join the team with the fourth-best defensive record in LaLiga in 2021/22. Alguacil will not take any prisoners either, and falling to match that defensive effort will see him struggle.
This also comes in a year in which Kubo will be, understandably, focused heavily on Japan’s World Cup participation in Qatar in November and December. He has been accused of favouring his national team over his club in the past, and he would be joining a squad with only three regular full internationals. That could be a difficult balance to strike.
Real Sociedad would also be a jump in quality. Last season, playing in a side battling relegation until the final kick, Kubo started less than half of Mallorca’s fixtures and completed a full 90 minutes on only five occasions. He scored just one goal and registered one assist. If it were not for Kubo’s brand, and Real Madrid’s backing, would those stats be catching the eye of a team pushing to break into the top four? It’s hard to think so.
Even if it were to be a success and all work out, Real Madrid might not be tempted to activate a buy-back option. They rarely do. The last time was in 2016 to bring Álvaro Morata back to the club, and before that the only other recent examples are Casemiro and Dani Carvajal, two players of immense quality. In Kubo’s case, we could see a repeat of Sergio Reguilón, whose 40 million euro purchase option expires this summer.
This is no repeat of the Martin Ødegaard case in 2019/20. The Norwegian arrived to take up a set role and his first real shot at first team football in LaLiga. He settled in quickly, integrated and made a huge success of his stay.
In the case of Kubo, this will be his fourth loan spell in Spain, and as of yet, none have been a real success. That raises more question marks about mentality and work rate than anything, and he quickly develops an unwanted reputation. Real Sociedad’s role of the dice on him is one in good faith.
This would take him to a higher level, but it would be fair to say that his career could be decided by how he performs this season. Prove himself, and he could earn a move back to Real Madrid or establish himself at a club already at the upper end of LaLiga. Fail to do so, and he’ll be the youngster with various coaches complaining about his attitude and who has failed to settle at five different clubs.
With a non-EU passport and some way off being at Real Madrid’s level, this could be the perfect time to consider a sale with an option to buy him back. Kubo is not close to warranting a spot in the Real Madrid squad, and funds could be invested elsewhere, or simply saved for an investment further down the line. If Kubo’s next club, wherever that may be, don’t unlock his potential, his resale value will only plummet further. Selling him permanently is a gamble, but with a buy-back clause, it’s a win-win for Real Madrid.