Real Madrid were blown away by an 11-year-old Takuhiro Nakai when he wowed them with his skills, now he’s ready to follow in Takefusa Kubo’s footsteps after joining first-team training… but how good is he and how far can the Japanese starlet go?
- Real Madrid signed Takuhiro Nakai, nicknamed Pipi, when he was nine years old
- Nakai has progressed well in Spain and is now in his seventh year at the club
- His skills have already attracted attention from experienced full-back Marcelo
- He isn’t far from moving to Real Madrid’s B side and should flourish from there
Real Madrid’s next Japanese sensation Takuhiro Nakai trained with the first team this week but he was already on the club’s radar after joining aged nine, bamboozling Marcelo with his skills, and blazing through the various youth categories.
The attacking midfielder, better known at the club’s Valdebebas training ground as Pipi, is now in his seventh season and should be playing with the Under 18s B-team before graduating to the U18s A-team.
The 16-year-old is then expected to move on to the youth side Real Madrid Castilla, which competes in the same league ladder as the first team, albeit two tiers below.
Takuhiro Nakai (right) joined in his first Real Madrid first-team training session this week
Nakai, 16, has progressed through the age categories since joining the club aged nine
It is expected that it won’t be long before he starts to represent the club’s Castilla B team
But having been called up by Zinedine Zidane to make up the numbers in first team training during international week, no one at the club will be surprised if the idea of him fast-tracking Pipi to the U18s A-team doesn’t become a permanent reality.
Raul, who coaches Castilla, has already called on him and there is even a chance he will play for the Real Madrid legend on occasions this season.
It was five years ago when Nakai first made a big impact with Real Madrid fans after appearing on a video that showed Marcelo visiting the club’s training ground and being blown away by the Japan youngster’s close control and dribbling skills.
Nakai, who is nicknamed Pipi, has developed well in the role as an attacking midfielder
Experienced Real full-back Marcelo was wowed five years ago when he watched Nakai train
Nakai first met Real head coach Zinedine Zidane in 2015 when playing at a youth tournament
With long defence-splitting passes and curling top-corner shots he has lit up the pitches of the club’s Valdebebas training ground on a regular basis and he rarely overelaborates playing quick one-touch passes if that best favours his team.
Before he wowed the fans, his mother impressed the club when she spoke up for Real Madrid at Lausane when they were disputing a FIFA ban on signings.
One of the accusations made against them by the game’s governing body was that they had separated the young Japanese player from his parents.
But Nakai’s mum gave a heartfelt and very convincing speech in which she made it clear that she was a divorcee who had come to Madrid and in no way had been separated from her son because of his being taken into Real Madrid’s youth system.
Nakai is known for his very creative style and defence-splitting passes on the pitch
That gesture has increased goodwill towards a player whose natural talent was already making him someone the club feel very positive about.
Coaches at the club are waiting to see how he develops. At the moment the close control, vision and intelligence has made him very much a midfielder, and often one receiving the ball deep from where he can build the play. But he could be used wide or behind the striker depending on how he matures.
He won’t turn 17 until next Saturday but he has already been likened to Takefusa Kubo who was loaned out to Mallorca last season and is currently on a one-year loan at Villarreal.
For now there are no plans for him to follow Kubo out of the club but already clubs are open to the possibility that Madrid will consider the option at some point.
He has something else in common with Kubo. Some versions of how he was scouted in Japan point to him standing out in a Madrid trial. There are also suggestions he played at a Barcelona soccer school too. Barcelona wanted him but, as with Kubo, he has ended up at Real Madrid.
He is looking to follow in the footsteps of Japanese team-mate Takefusa Kubo who is 19
Kubo is currently on a one-year loan at Villarreal from Real having spent last year at Mallorca
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