When Unai Emery was building his Villarreal squad for the 2020/21 campaign he earmarked one signing that could be a game changer - Takefusa Kubo of Real Madrid.
After signing for Los Blancos from FC Tokyo in 2019, Kubo was subsequently sent out on loan at Mallorca where he impressed as an 18-year-old.
Madrid brought him back with the intention of loaning him out again, perhaps to a more high-profile club to aid his development even more.
Emery believed that bringing in Kubo could be the signing that catalysed an assault on the top four and a return to the Champions League. His wish was granted as the Japanese youngster arrived for the season.
So, why hasn't he played?
Yes, Kubo has featured in every single one of Villarreal's La Liga matches so far, but never for more than 16 minutes off the bench.
Kubo - minutes played in 2020/21 so far
|Villarreal 1-1 Huesca||13 mins|
|Villarreal 2-1 Eibar||5 mins|
|Barcelona 4-0 Villarreal||16 mins|
|Villarreal 3-1 Alaves||15 mins|
|Atletico Madrid 0-0 Villarreal||5 mins|
In Villarreal's latest match which was the drab 0-0 draw versus Atletico Madrid, the game was crying out for some creativity, but Emery still only waited until the final portion of the match to introduce the talented young winger.
Following the draw, Emery explained his decision...after initially getting his player's age wrong.
"He's 18, he got more more minutes under his belt today," Emery said.
"All the games and minutes Take accumulates are to his benefit. Also, he has to adapt to a new level of demand. He was in the Primera [at Mallorca] last season, had a good season and let's now see whether he can do the same for us.
"Take has a really clearly mapped out road forward and that's because I speak to him a lot. I think he understands, but it's a process. I must insist that making changes wasn't easy for a coach today because the XI on the pitch were really focused on and 'involved' in their tasks.
"If I brought someone on who didn't hit the same level of implication and clarity about what their tasks were then it would be risky. So I accepted that risk and responsibility, for Samu [Chukweze] and Take coming on, but it was more about giving them a chance to learn."
He would later say that it was a "tough" match for Kubo to enter into.
Largely viewed as the future of Japanese football, Kubo has enjoyed a burgeoning reputation since moving to Real Madrid, particularly after his loan season away at Mallorca in which he made 35 appearances, contributing four goals and four assists in the league.
He is famed for his agility, speed, and dribbling ability, with Madrid hoping to eventually bring him into the first-team fold at the Santiago Bernabeu.
For now, though, it seems like he'll have to bide his time under Emery.