Kashima Antlers have announced that a transfer for forward Hiroki Abe has been agreed with La Liga giants Barcelona.
Abe has emerged as one of the brightest prospects in Japanese football since making his debut in 2017, and was part of the Kashima outfit that won the AFC Champions League last season.
Still only 20, he won his first Japan cap last month as he represented the Samurai Blue at the Copa America and it did not take long for him to garner serious interest from Europe.
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But it is Barcelona who have won the race for his services after Antlers confirmed that a deal in principle had been agreed, subject to the player passing a medical and agreeing personal terms.
“Since graduating from high school, I spent two and a half years at Kashima Antlers and was able to grow both as a person and a professional footballer,” Abe said on the J1 League outfit’s official website.
“It is a difficult decision to leave the team but I have decided to make the move to FC Barcelona, as I believe the various challenges I will now face are absolutely necessary for my development.”
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Abe was named the J.League Rookie of the Year last season and becomes the second Japanese starlet in recent time to join one of the biggest teams in Europe, following Takefusa Kubo’s move to Real Madrid.
It is believed that Abe will initially ply his trade with Barcelona B, although promotion to the first team could very well be on the horizon should he impress sufficiently.