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Soccer: Kashima agree to transfer young talent Abe to Barcelona

In this May 8, 2019 file photo, Hiroki Abe, right, of Japan's Kashima Antlers is seen in action during the first half of an Asian Champions League football group-stage match against Johor Darul Ta'zim in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Kashima Antlers have agreed to transfer attacker Hiroki Abe to Barcelona, the J-League first-division club announced Friday.

    The 20-year-old, who made his senior Japan debut at the recent Copa America, will join the Spanish powerhouse pending a medical.

    A skillful dribbler with strong attacking instincts, Abe has primarily played for Kashima as a left midfielder, but can also play on the right or as a secondary striker.

    The Tokyo native joined Kashima out of high school in 2017 and was named the J-League's best young player the following year.

    In a statement via the J-League club, Abe said he looked forward to the challenge of joining 26-time Spanish champions Barcelona.

    "It was a difficult decision to leave (Kashima) mid-season, but I chose to make the move because I absolutely want to take on this new challenge at Barcelona," Abe said.

    "The various challenges and hurdles I will face from now are crucial for my growth."

    A likely selection for Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Abe appeared in all three of the Samurai Blue's matches at the Copa America in Brazil.

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