Real Sociedad winger Takefusa Kubo has waited a long time to make good on his potential but finally he is shining in La Liga.
The Japan international has scored four goals in his last four league games and is the Basque team’s key figure ahead of the visit to face Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
Imanol Alguacil’s side have plenty of other dangerous weapons, including Brais Mendez, Mikel Oyarzabal and Mikel Merino, but Kubo is playing particularly well.
With victory on Sunday La Real, fifth, could overtake Atletico and climb into fourth place, which is where they finished last season to qualify for the Champions League.
Atletico are in formidable form after a convincing derby win over rivals and league leaders Real Madrid and two impressive comeback wins over Cadiz and Feyenoord, the latter in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Real Sociedad have started well in Europe themselves, dominating last season runners-up Inter Milan albeit in a draw before pocketing a 2-0 win at Salzburg on Tuesday.
Kubo has five strikes in La Liga, with only Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham ahead of him on six.
The 22-year-old’s most recent came in the 3-0 Basque derby win over Athletic Bilbao which cemented La Real’s status as the region’s current best side.
Kubo celebrated in humourous fashion, appearing to pull up injured before breaking out into a “twerk” dance move.
Athletic defender Yuri Berchiche twice clipped him around the head as he jogged back for the restart.
“I was calmly going back to my own half and I was hit twice, I realised it was Yuri who was very angry,” said Kubo.
“I didn’t want to get involved … if I go down there it’s probably a red, but I didn’t want to.”
The winger has become known for his honest post-match interviews, which he conducts in a chatty and jovial demeanour.
If circumstances had been slightly different, Kubo could be at one of Spain’s traditional big two.
Barcelona brought him to La Masia at age 10, before the club were hit with a punishment for breaking rules in the signing of youth players.
Kubo was forced to leave, heading back to Japan, and was eventually signed by Real Madrid in 2019.
Los Blancos loaned him to Mallorca, Getafe and Villarreal, where he did not find much success, and eventually sold him to Real Sociedad in 2022.
Kubo has said he saw La Real as a last chance to make it at the top level and grasped it with both hands.
The visit to the Metropolitano will be another opportunity to showcase his status as one of La Liga’s best players, after a complicated climb to the summit.
Real Madrid host Osasuna on Saturday looking to extend their one-point advantage on champions Barcelona, who visit lowly Granada on Sunday.
La Liga’s top goalscorer Bellingham continued his superb form by helping Los Blancos snatch a 3-2 win at Napoli on Tuesday in the Champions League.
Girona, third, face Cadiz in Andalucia where they hope to bounce back from the 3-0 defeat by Real Madrid last weekend which brought them down to earth after they topped the table.
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