Real Madrid snuck in to seal the signing of highly rated Japanese forward Takefusa Kubo from FC Tokyo for free ahead of rivals Barcelona, thanks to their attention to detail.
Clásico rivals Barcelona were also keeping tabs on the player, who spent four years in their academy between 2011 and 2015, along with Paris Saint-Germain, but it was Los Blancos who ultimately announced the deal on Friday.
18-year-old Kubo, who is set to spend next season in Real Madrid's B team under the tutelage of club legend Raul Gonzalez, returns to Spain after four years, when a Barcelona transfer ban for the illegal signing of youth players ultimately led him to leave La Masia to return to Japan.
Nicknamed (somewhat predictably) the 'Japanese Messi' big things are expected of Kubo, who made his senior Japan debut in 2019. Barcelona had been tipped as favourites to re-sign the wonderkid but, according to Marca, they were tripped up by his contract termination date.
The report claims that Real Madrid were aware his contract ended this summer, while (possibly confused by an error on the website Transfermarkt) Barcelona and PSG were under the impression that the deal ended on 31 January 2020.
Los Blancos made Kubo an attractive offer, a five-year contract worth €1.2m a year, in order to steal the talent from under the noses of their rivals, who were still mulling their propos thinking they had more time.
Unbelievable. Real Madrid have signed Takefusa Kubo, the biggest talent in Asia, for free, because unlike Barcelona and PSG, they knew his contract ended on June 1.— Zach Lowy (@ZachLowy) June 14, 2019
Barcelona and PSG thought Kubo’s contract ended on January 31, 2020, simply because Transfermarkt said so. pic.twitter.com/tB0c6lS8vN
When asked about joining Real Madrid, the 18-year-old, who is currently on international duty, said: "I am very happy to have signed for Real Madrid.
"I'm calm. It's a normal day, but I'm very happy."
On Real's website, Los Blancos described their new player as 'technically gifted and hugely talented'.
"Real Madrid will have one of the most promising young players in world football. An attacking midfielder of excellent technique, very skilled, with vision of game, great dribble and goal [scoring]," their statement reads.
Although not one for the first team just yet, Kubo's signing takes Real Madrid to six so far this window as Zindedine Zidane looks to rebuild his squad and reassert their dominance in both Spanish and European football.