Can Asian stars Takefusa Kubo, Lee Kang-in take next step with Mallorca in LaLiga?

Asian starlets Takefusa Kubo and Lee Kang-in previously crossed paths as opponents in LaLiga but will be on the same side this season with Real Mallorca. Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

There is no lack of similarities between the fledgling footballing careers of Japan's Takefusa Kubo and South Korean counterpart Lee Kang-in.

They are both 20 years old and are arguably the biggest talents to come out of their countries during the last decade. The prodigies both left their homeland at the young age of ten with Spain being their shared destination.

While Kubo moved to Barcelona's famed La Masia academy, Lee headed for Valencia to hone his craft. The duo earned international recognition at the FIFA U-20 World Cup -- Kubo as a 15-year-old in 2017 and Lee when he led South Korea to a historic runners-up finish a couple of years later.

And it looks like it is not just their past, but their present and future that will be intertwined.

The two East Asians have been united this summer at LaLiga side Real Mallorca, where they will line up together in a quest to keep the newly-promoted outfit in the Spanish top division.

One thing that makes the two footballers different is the fact that while Kubo has been a constant journeyman in the sport, Lee has had the stability of playing for the same club for almost a decade. But that was until the end of last month.

After making 44 LaLiga appearances over three seasons for the Bats, the youngster had a frantic last week of the transfer window having his contract terminated before moving to Mallorca for free. Though he reportedly had offers from England, Lee chose to sign a four-year deal with Mallorca to link up with Kubo.

Kubo, meanwhile, will be on his second loan spell at the club. The Japanese star joined FC Tokyo in 2015 before returning to Europe with Real Madrid. However, 2021-22 will be his fourth loan spell away from Santiago Bernabeu since joining them in 2019.

So, is this the right move for Kubo and Lee as they look to continue their development? And what have these left-footed attackers got to offer at Mallorca?

These are two players with a point to prove. Kubo's return to Spain got off to a good start with a successful loan at Mallorca during the 2019-20 season, but he failed to impress in subsequent spells at Villarreal and Getafe. As a result, his dream of playing for Los Blancos remains unfulfilled.

Lee, on the other hand, was someone Valencia once pinned their hopes on as they inserted an €80 million buyout clause in his maiden first-team contract in 2018. Three years on, they let him go on a free transfer despite the South Korean playing more minutes than ever before in the league last season.

What Kubo and Lee give to Mallorca manager Luis Garcia Plaza are options. Kubo loves running at defenders from the right wing and can also play as a No. 10, and the LaLiga newcomers have already employed him in both roles in fixtures before the international break.

Lee is perhaps even more versatile as his exceptional vision and creativity make him a perfect fit as a playmaker. The youngster, who can whip in dangerous crosses with his left, can also be deployed on both flanks. But it will be his role as a central attacking midfielder that he will look to shine in the Balearic Islands.

Lee is hoping for a fresh start at Mallorca while Kubo is eager to impress new Real manager Carlo Ancelotti as he looks to earn a place in their squad for the 2022-23 season.

The two also have national team aspirations to take care of. While Lee has been altogether left out of Paulo Bento's South Korea squad for September's 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers, Kubo's involvement with Hajime Moriyasu's Japan has been limited to cameos despite both featuring in the summer's Tokyo Olympics.

For a club that finished 18th in LaLiga in their last attempt and are looking to survive the top flight once again, the acquisition of the Asian duo on the cheap could prove to be savvy business.

And if the pair can hit the ground running, it will be good news not just for Mallorca, but also for their respective national teams -- and Asian football as a whole.