Barcelona agree deal for Kashima Antlers' promising player Hiroki Abe
Uruguay's Nicolas Lodeiro (left) vies for the ball with Japan's Hiroki Abe on June 20, 2019, at Arena do Gremio stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil, during a Group C match at the 2019 Copa America. EPA-EFE/Sebastião Moreira
Tokyo, Jul 12 (efe-epa).- Japanese club Kashima Antlers on Friday said its forward Hiroki Abe was set to join Spanish powerhouse Barcelona.
In a statement, the J-League side said it has struck a basic agreement with the Catalan club and that Abe would sign pending a medical.
Although usually a forward with Kashima Antlers, the 20-year-old attacker can also play in midfield. He made his debut with the Japan national team against Chile in the recent Copa America.
He joined Kashima in 2017 and went onto win the award for the league's best young player award in 2018.
"It was a tough decision to leave mid-season, but I chose to make the move because I really want to take on this new challenge at Barcelona," Abe said in the club statement.
He said the various hurdles he would now face were crucial for his growth as a player.
The youngster joined Kashima straight from high school.
Having already dipped his toe in the water playing for the national team, which featured as a guest in the Copa America, Abe looks almost certain to land a more crucial role for the Samurai Blue in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
His move to La Liga had been rumored for several months in Japanese media.
According to those reports, Barcelona made clear it was willing to pay Abe's buyout clause.
Kashima Antlers are currently fourth in Japan's J-League. So far this year Abe has played in 14 matches, scoring on goal.
Barcelona won its 26th title in the domestic league in 2018/19 but failed to add more to its silverware, missing out on the Copa del Rey with a 1-2 loss to Valencia in the final and tumbling out of the UEFA Champions League in a dramatic fashion succumbing to Liverpool 0-4 in a semifinal second leg, losing its 3-0 advantage from the first bout.
The rumor mill around Barcelona's possible summer signings was frantic, with France's Antoine Greizmann linked to the Catalan side while others suggested Neymar Jr. could be on the brink of returning just two years after his record-breaking signing with Paris Saint-Germain. EFE-EPA