Villarreal winger Samuel Chukwueze has risen to prominence this season, becoming a regular for the relegation-threatened Yellow Submarine, appearing in 24 La Liga matches in his inaugural season for the first team.
Hype around the 19-year old winger went to another level at the start of April, after he scored and provided an assist in Villarreal’s wild 4-4 draw with Barcelona at the Estadio de la Ceramica.
Chukwueze’s performances have not gone unnoticed with a host of European clubs after his signature, despite his minimal experience. Liverpool, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, and Leicester City are all interested in acquiring the talented Nigerian’s services, but first, he will be looking to inspire 14th place Villarreal to La Liga survival.
With Chukwueze’s name set to feature regularly in the summer transfer window rumour mill, here’s six things to know about the Super Eagles’ rising star…
1. He Has Been Called the Reincarnation of Arjen Robben
Despite playing less than 20 matches in Europe, Chukwueze has already found himself compared to one of the game’s greatest modern attackers. As a left-footed right winger with the constant desire to take defenders on and fire at goal, it’s impossible not see aspects of the Dutchman’s game in Chukwueze.
Robben, who has scored 98 goals in 198 Bundesliga appearances has certainly shown a clinical side that Chukwueze is lacking, although the Villarreal winger has managed four goals this season.
The comparisons to Robben are completely understandable. The cut/shift to the left and dribbling at speed are both there. Chukwueze still very raw…but what a future he has.
— David Cartlidge (@davidjaca) April 2, 2019
With Robben set to depart Bavaria this summer, Bayern have been linked with a host of talented young wingers including Callum Hudson-Odoi, but Chukwueze could be the perfect replacement to offer the same kind of outside threat that made the Germans so deadly with Robben and Franck Ribery on the flanks.
2. Arsene Wenger Nearly Signed Chukwueze for Arsenal
Arsenal have a long history of barely missing out on top tier talents including failed moves for Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Yaya Toure. Chukwueze can be added to that list after he very nearly moved to the Emirates in January 2016.
Chukwueze was supposed to come to Arsenal alongside Nwakali after the Under 17 world cup in 2015 Nigeria won but Diamond Academy pulled out of the Deal because Arsenal did not offer enough money.
He signed a 5years deal with Villarreal in 2017.
— Buchi Laba Laba 曆曆曆 (@Buchi_smallzy) April 3, 2019
The then 16-year-old was expected to join the Gunners in a £3m move that included fellow Nigerian youngster Kelechi Nwakali, with the pair even being pictured alongside Wenger.
However, the deal fell through at the last minute with Nwakali heading to north London on his own while Chukwueze joined Villarreal in 2017. The failed move will cost Arsenal millions if they are able to entice him to the Premier League this summer.
3. He Is Already an International Star
After emerging as a Villarreal first-team player, Chukwueze made his Nigeria debut against Uganda in October.
The talented youngster is so highly regarded in his home country that he won the 2018 Nigerian Young Player of the Year Award, beating Victor Osimhen of Wolfsburg as well as Everton’s Henry Onyekuru to the prize.
Speaking after winning the award, Chukwueze said, as quoted by the BBC: “I’m very motivated and inspired by this, because it is unbelievable. Everything happening still seems like a dream.”
4. His Goalscoring Exploits Have Placed Him in Esteemed Company
Chukwueze joined a group of extremely talented youngsters when he became the fourth-youngest goalscorer in La Liga this season after finding the net in Villarreal’s 2-2 draw with Rayo Vallecano last November.
5. He Is Already a World Cup Winner…at Youth Level
Chukwueze made his international debut for the senior Nigeria team in 2018 but had already established himself on the world stage after winning the Under-17 World Cup in Chile.
Chukwueze has to be a starter for Nigeria. He has to be at AFCON.
— JJ. Omojuwa (@Omojuwa) April 2, 2019
Nigeria beat Mali 2-0 in the final with Chukwueze starting and playing 80 minutes of the triumphant victory. In addition, the rising star scooped the tournament’s Bronze Boot after notching three goals and three assists.
6. Chukwueze’s Meteoric Rise Has Proven a Number of Doubters Wrong
Although he has shot to the very top of the football world at the age of 19, Chukwueze’s path wasn’t always simple with his parents even attempting to hinder his career when he was a young child in Nigeria.
Speaking in an interview with TheCable in 2016, Chukwueze described the efforts his parents would go to in order to stop him from playing football.
Chukwueze said: “When I was growing up playing football, my parents used to seize my boots and even burn them. So, as to prevent me from going to play football.”
Samuel Chukwueze is an absolute star. The Nigerian teenager has Villarreal back in it against Barca. Can’t imagine he’ll be at the yellow submarines next season. Top class. #LaLiga
— Kevin Egan (@kev_egan) April 2, 2019
Fortunately, his parents eventually relented, allowing their son to pursue football, with Chukwueze explaining: “My parents eventually gave their consent to me playing football in 2013 when we went to Portugal.
“They realised that I love playing football and that I will prefer it to something else. So, they gave their blessings and I became more focused on my football career.”