East Asia Japan

U-17 World Cup Star Rento Takaoka Land Southampton Pre-Contract

Japan youth international striker Rento Takaoka is set to join newly-promoted Premier League side Southampton after the 17-year old signed a pre-contract deal on Wednesday.

Takaoka broke into the scenes during the 2023 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Indonesia, where he led Japan to the round of 16 with his four goals, all of them coming off the bench, including two crucial group stage goals against Senegal that squeezed the Young Samurai Blue into the knockouts.

A student of the Nissho Gakuen High School in Miyazaki, Takaoka’s exploits in the U-17 World Cup attracted global attention and it was Southampton who won the race in handing the striker his first pro contract.

Takaoka will remain a student at Nissho Gakuen until March 2025, when he turns 18, before packing his bags and heading into the English South Coast with the Saints.

Southampton are no strangers to Japanese talent, with Tadanari Lee playing for the Saints between 2012 and 2014, while Takumi Minamino had a brief loan spell there in 2021. But Southampton’s most notable Japanese star was defender Maya Yoshida, who played 154 games for the Saints between 2012 and 2020.