Real Madrid face an impending dilemma over who will fill their non-European Union quota spots for next year following the impressive off-season form of Takefusa Kubo.
The Japan midfielder, who signed for the club’s Castilla reserve team in June from FC Tokyo, has impressed in an otherwise difficult pre-season for Los Blancos, and was named Man of the Match by fans for their 5-3 victory over Fenerbahce in Munich.
Kubo penned a five-year deal with a view to making the step-up to the senior side later down the line but the 18-year-old’s stand-out form has presented coach Zinedine Zidane with a decision to make.
Per La Liga rules, no club may include more than three squad places with players from outside the continent, with Eder Militao, Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde currently occupying those positions for Madrid.
The club hope that the latter’s lengthy stay so far will allow him to successfully apply for Spanish citizenship, therefore freeing up one berth.
However, the expectation had been that former Santos striker Rodrygo would fill the empty gap, having signed a lengthy contract from 2019 onwards last year to seal a move to Santiago Bernabeu.
With both players having featured throughout pre-season, Kubo has been the more eye-catching performer, though the hefty fee paid to Santos for Rodrygo would likely indicate a higher standing for the Brazilian.
If Valverde’s request for citizenship is not approved by the squad registration deadline on September 2, the point is moot, with Kubo and Rodrygo both set to play for the Castilla side instead.
They managed to defeat Arsenal on penalties in Landover but it was not until their defeat of Fenerbahce that they arguably showed their potential ahead of what is tipped to be another tough campaign.
Despite having led Los Blancos to considerable glory during his first stint in charge, Zidane will know that he faces an uphill battle when his side kick off their new La Liga campaign on August 17 with a trip to Celta Vigo.