Samuel Chukwueze became the only African listed in the Ballon d’Or Kopa award. The young player was introduced by the last U17 tournament held in Chile. The tournament introduced Nigerian goal machine Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze among other players. Samuel Chukwueze has been impressive since coming to limelight, he has attracted many top European clubs with his pattern and style of play.
Early Years of Samuel Chukwueze
Samuel Chukwueze was born on the 22nd of May 1999 in Umuahia Abia State Nigeria. He started his football career at a tender age of 8 idolizing Jay-jay Okocha of Nigeria and Arjen Ruben of Netherlands. Samu, as he is called by his parents, was so in love with football that he goes to school with his football boots, training immediately after school hours. Many times his mother and Uncle will hide his football kits and many other times burn them, they wanted him to take studies more seriously. The young boy’s grandmother was the one who encouraged him in football.
As he was playing one, Hon. Victor Apugo was monitoring him. Chukwueze said Mr. Victor Apugo is like a father to him as he supported him both in to be who he is today. Samuel started his football career with Future Hope Academy before moving to New Generation Academy. He joined Diamond Football Academy in 2012, where he was later picked to represent Nigeria in the U17 tournament held in Chile.
Nigeria came first in the tournament with Samuel Chukwueze scoring three goals in seven matches and he also won the most valuable player of the tournament. With his performance in the U17 tournament European clubs started coming for him but he returned to his former side Diamond Football Academy.
In 2017 Chukwueze signed for Spanish Villarreal Juvenil side where he made his debut on the 15th of April coming in as a substitute. Samuel Chukwueze scored his first goal for Villarreal on the 20th of May 2018. He scored two goals in his eleven appearances before the end of the season. In total, he was able to score to four goals in twenty league games for the Villarreal youth team.
Samuel Chukwueze made his first- senior debut on the 20th of September 2018, Nicola Sansone in a 2-2 home draw against Rangers, in the 2018-19 UEFA Europa League. He also made his League debut on the 5th of November 2018 against Levente for the 2018-19 La Liga. He has scored two goals already in the present 2019-20 La Liga season and he is still attracting big clubs like Barcelona and Liverpool. Chukwueze won Villarreal’s young player of the year after his first season with the team.
After playing for Nigeria at the under-17 level, he received his first call-up to the senior team in October 2018. He made his debut for the Nigerian senior team on 20 November 2018 as a starter in a 0–0 friendly draw against Uganda.
In May 2019, Chukwueze was invited to represent Nigeria’s senior team at the Africa Cup of Nations and the Under-20 team at the Under-20 World Cup. However, the club side Villarreal said he could only play in one of the tournaments. He was part of the Nigerian squad for Africa Cup of Nations hosted in Egypt. He scored his first senior goal in Nigeria’s 2–1 win over South Africa in the quarter-finals.
The Nigerian has taken after the playing style of Arjen Ruben. He admitted that Leo Messi is good but he is not my icon Arjen Ruben is, he said. Chukwueze was among the 10-strong shortlist for the Kopa Trophy. It is Ballon d’Or’s award for the best performing player under the age of 21.
The Nigeria international scored nine goals in all competitions in his breakthrough season with the Yellow Submarines. He was nominated for the Kopa Trophy alongside Jadon Sancho, Matteo Guendouzi, Joao Felix, Matthijs de Ligt, etc.