The young lad owes his career to a change of heart by his mother because if she had her way, the world will never have been able to witness the talent that is Samuel Chukwueze, according to an exclusive interview with Goal.
At just 20 years old, the Villarreal winger is one of Europe’s most exciting young talents and one of La Liga ’s best prospects. His career is very much on the rise and has the potential to reach the top in his trade, a development that will make his mother at home happy she changed her mind.
Football featured heavily in Chukwueze’s upbringing. His grandfather had been a player at local level and like his grandson, was a left-footer too. There were also several places in his neighbourhood where kids would gather to play football, and it was only natural that he would be drawn to the sport.
In the exclusive, he tells the story of how he met a very strong resistance from his mother and uncle who insisted that he face his studies and abandon the sport. However, his big break arrived when Diamond Football academy, the most popular football academy in his hometown organised tryouts and his mother – much to his surprise – gave her blessings.
After winning the FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile with the Nigerian U17 team in a tournament that also featured Christian Pulisic, Eder Militao and Trent Alexander-Arnold, he had a lot of clubs lining up for his signature, but stayed with Diamond Football academy for two more years before moving to Europe, joining Villareal.
Chukwueze’s coaches at Valencia were immediately impressed by what they saw from the then 18-year old. Blessed with electric pace, a powerful left foot and a mazy dribbling ability thanks to his low centre of gravity, he reminded the coaching staff of Arjen Robben who Chukwueze considers as his football idol.
THE NEXT ARJEN ROBBEN?
In the exclusive, Chukwueze admits to following the career of the retired Dutchman very closely, and has patterned his play in the same fashion. Robben, during his playing career, was regarded as one of the best wingers in the world and was able to take on and beat defenders easily. Robben’s most fearsome ability asides his ability to get to the byline and deliver in accurate crosses is the way he bulldozes his way down the right wing, cuts inside and takes a shot with his very powerful left foot.
The right wing has been renamed “Robben street” by fans on social media who witnessed Robben’s exploits week in and week out down the wing. Five out of ten times when he cuts inside to shoot, it’s on target. This ability instils fear into any defence.
This became a sort of patented style of play for Robben. Defenders knew what he was going to do but still found it hard to stop the Dutchman. This is what Chukwueze has tried to emulate in his game.
The raw, unprocessed talent of the 20-year old can be seen as he is prone to holding on to the ball to long, something Robben would never do. However, Chukwueze has one more weapon in his Arsenal which is an ability to play down the middle as an attacking midfielder behind the strikers.
Robben had to always start on the right and cut inside but Chukwueze, who is being touted as the next Robben, can do that as well as starting down the middle and drifting wide for greater attacking threat. His technicality plays a key role in this, which also makes him a very good fit for La Liga, a league that thrives on its technical style of play.
Valencia benefited a lot from this side of his gameplay last season. He was a major attacking outlet and was either starting key matches or being used as a substitute to attempt to salvage a game. The club finished 14th in the league last season due to general inconsistent performances, but his performances stood out especially against Real Madrid where Marcelo had a difficult time with the lad, and Barcelona in an insane 4-4 draw in which he terrorised Jordi Alba from start to finish, and scored one goal. He was also key to their progression to the quarter finals of the Europa league and was named one of the 50 players to look out for in the 2019/20 season by UEFA.
Also, very much unlike Robben who was besieged with injuries during his playing career, Chukwueze is fit as a fiddle and his discipline – sticking to club routines and personal fitness regimens – helps it stay that way. He can be relied on to be available for most of the season, whereas Robben was only available when his body agreed with him, making his team to constantly adjust and adapt to his absence.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE FUTURE
Chukwueze has been given a more prominent role in the team, showing the belief that the coaches have in his ability. So far, he has started the three match weeks and has been substituted only once, scoring a goal. We predict a good season for him which will see him better his seven goals and assist figure from last season and hit double figures for goals and assists this season.
He is sure to keep improving in Spain and while he will continue to be closely monitored by the bigger clubs, he’s in no hurry to leave. Valencia will enjoy having the €31m rated youngster in their books for the duration of his contract which expires in 2023, and with the attitude and ability he has, the kid should go far.