Thursday Feb 27, 2020. 11:00
Nigerian winger Samuel Chukwueze has been touted as one of the most talented young players in European football and recent media reports have linked him with a move to Premier League giants such as Liverpool and Chelsea.
His performance level for Villarreal through the last season and a half has been that of an experienced, established player, yet Chukwueze is still three months shy of his 21st birthday. In short, he shouldn’t be as good as he is, but fans of the Yellow Submarine and Nigeria’s Super Eagles are certainly happy for him to continue defying expectations.
Chukwueze’s journey to stardom has included glory with Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets at the 2015 U-17 World Cup and quick progress through Villarreal’s academy: he joined the club in 2017 and made his debut for the first team early in the 2018/19 season.
“It’s not like we found Samu under a stone,” admitted Villarreal Director of International Business, Juan Anton De Salas. “He was already a world champion with Nigeria at the U-17 World Cup [in 2015].”
And yet Villarreal are very much responsible for player’s growth from a promising youngster into a full professional. In less than two seasons he has racked up over 60 appearances and 12 goals for the Spanish club, as well as making a mark in international football by being a part of Nigeria’s squad at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Chukwueze, though, still has a way to go. As well as becoming a better player, the 20-year-old can also grow as a person, according to Villarreal teammate and veteran defender Raul Albiol.
“He’s a very good player, very fast and very good in one-against-one situations, a good dribbler,” explained Albion, who has also represented Valencia, Getafe, Real Madrid and Napoli in his club career, as well as winning two European championships and a World Cup with Spain.
“He’s very quiet, he doesn’t speak a lot, but he’s always happy. So we are training him to become professional and a better player, but also to become a better person, a more open person who can have a better relationship with his colleagues.”
And given the family-oriented nature of Villarreal as a football club, there is surely no better place for him to continue developing and remain on the path to becoming an African football great.