Happy New Year, Nigerian football fans.
One of the best gifts to Nigerian football in 2018 was the emergence of the left-footed youngster, Samuel Chukwueze, the 2015 U-17 FIFA World Cup winner who was rejected by Arsenal but surfaced with the Yellow Submarine – Villarreal.
According to reports – and it is the silly rumours season – bigger teams like Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, and Leicester City are now said to be after his signature, with sums like $36 million been bandied in the news.
Good news – that is if you think all that matters is money but, if the thought is for long-term and an environment to continue to develop, then the best advice would be for him to stay at Villarreal, at least, till the end of the season.
Just as Victor Moses became the poster boy of the Super Eagles, Chukwueze has all it takes to soar as an Eagle and for any aspiring team for many years to come.
Two goals in his first three La Liga appearances is a stat even the great Lionel cannot boast of. The temerity to compare this precocious emerging star, to Messi in one breath is a measure of how high he can fly.
Messi did not score his second goal in La Liga until his 15th appearance but the 19-year-old Nigerian achieved the feat in three matches with other uncanny resemblance with the career trajectory of the Argentine magician.
The one-cap Eagle has been described in glowing terms by coaches and colleague. Luis Garcia said, “He’s got speed, spark, he can dribble. He’s a jewel we have to take care of.”
His Villarreal teammate, the very-experienced Santi Cazorla, said the 19-year-old is destined for greatness because of the great focus he puts on his game. “He is a lot different, no much time on the phone, unlike some young players that have helped him to put his focus on the game.
“The way he works hard in training is also very encouraging. It won’t be long before he becomes established if he maintains this motivation and drive.” Nice and wise words from someone who has been there.
After impressing in Villarreal’s youth teams, they promoted the lad into the first team and he quickly stamped his mark on the team – making the right attacking berth his forte.
“I did not expect to play so soon with the first team,” he told Plaza Deportiva. He, however, revealed he is not under pressure – “I do not feel pressure or particularly (significant), I am only thinking about working hard and continuing to improve.
“It is important to make sure the Coach retains his trust and confidence in me but it is exciting to be playing and doing things that are right.”
But the major developmental index is that he continues to get quality playing time and is not under pressure to be the ‘saviour’. If he moves to the bigger teams, that prerequisite for continuous development will definitely be curtailed. His mistakes and naivety will be exacerbated and the media, because of whatever big amount that was used to snag him, will put him under a glaring spotlight.
His former manager, Javi Calleja said of the youth prodigy. “Samu is a player who doesn’t stop growing. He is doing very well and is showing he’s capable of playing at the top level.
“We need to be patient with him.”
His handlers must understand this. He is an outstanding talent, with the future very bright but all this is hinged on being in an environment where he is given the chance to grow at his own pace. At a bigger club, that will not be sacrosanct.