Japan midfielder Abe to move to Barcelona

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Japanese attacking midfielder Hiroki Abe said Friday he was moving to Barcelona, becoming the second Japanese player in a month to join one of La Liga’s big two clubs.

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J-League outfit Kashima Antlers, where 20-year-old Abe was spending his third season as a professional, confirmed the move.

Abe is expected to play for Barcelona’s B team to start with, Japanese broadcaster NHK said.

The news came as Barcelona prepare to tour Japan later this month for friendly matches, including one against Premier League side Chelsea.

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“I felt strongly that I wanted a new challenge at FC Barcelona, although the decision was difficult to make because it required me to leave the team (Antlers) during this ongoing season,” Abe said in a statement.

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Abe, voted the J-League’s Best Young Player last season, was called into Japan’s national team for the first time in June for the Copa America where he played in two games, including one as a second-half substitute.

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Abe will complete the move after a medical check in Spain, Antlers added.

Abe’s transfer comes after Japanese teenage sensation Takefusa Kubo, dubbed the “Japanese Messi”, joined Real Madrid last month.

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