Samuel Chukwueze: Atletico Eye €40m Man

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After some superlative performance since being promoted to La Liga top flight with Villarreal, culminating to his invitation to the national team, Samuel Chukwueze has suddenly become the toast of top clubs in Spain. Little wonder, Atletico Madrid is planning to splash €40m on the Nigerian prodigy when the January transfer market opens

Villarreal teen sensation Samuel Chukwueze is now the prime target of Atletico Madrid when the January transfer window opens according to Spanish outlet elgoldigital.com.

Atletico Madrid is ready to splash €40m on Chukwueze as a replacement for Vitolo.

The 19-year-old who is enjoying his breakthrough season at the club has impressed Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone who is searching ‎for firepower up front.

Chukwueze current contract carries a buy-out clause of €40m, a fee that Atletico Madrid can match with ease as one of their forwards Vitolo who has failed to live up to expectations since his signing is set to depart the team in January.

Vitolo will likely return to Sevilla and if that happens the club will waste no time in triggering the buy-out clause of Chukwueze who is now a firm fan favourite at Villarreal in what is his first season as a senior professional.

Already he has scored in all competitions for Villarreal this season- the La Liga, Europa Leagueand Copa Del Rey.

Chukwueze’s good form for Villarreal this season has not gone unnoticed as he is included among the top talents in Spain.

The 19-year-old has been a surprise star player for the yellow submarines this season, after being promoted from the second team.

Chukwueze has been impressive for Villarreal this season in all competitions he has featured.

Following another sparkling performance by Chukwueze for The Yellow Submarine in La Liga, former Arsenal star, Lauren Etame Meyer said he was amazed at the youngster’s performance.

Lauren, who now works as a television pundit, said he was again thrilled by Chukwueze’s form with Villarreal against Huesca last weekend, after which he rated the Chile 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup revelation and a gold medalist as his team’s best player in the game.

The Cameroonian legend added that Chukwueze, who has four goals this season, provides much more for Villarreal than just scoring.

Lauren added: “He is a very good footballer. Can score and also create plus he is very good with the ball at his feet. He is the best and probably most complete 19-year-old I’ve seen in a while in the La Liga.

“Most teams need players who can offer them balance and something different in attack especially for a team like Villarreal who are used to having the ball. He compliments their style very well.”

He, however, said much of what he achieved had been down to “hard work, discipline and determination. Especially determination, this had made the difference. It has been amazing and I want to keep improving so that I continue with the rise.”

Chukwueze recently received accolades from his Spanish club Villarreal after an impressive performance in his first La Liga start. He started for the Yellow Submarines against Almeria in the Copa Dey Rey in a game that ended 3 – 3 and made his first start in the La Liga against Levante during the penultimate weekend with the Nigerian playing the entire duration of the game.

Chukwueze who scored his first senior team goal against Almeria and is looking to impose his quality on the first team with a series of eye-catching performances and Villarreal through its official Twitter handle (Eng_Villarreal) has heaped praise on the 19-year-old star. “Our Nigerian winger @chukwueze_8 impressed on his first start in @LaLigaEN! We’re sure it will be the first of many.”

However, Villarreal manager Javi Calleja has charged Chukwueze to continue working hard for a regular berth in the La Liga club’s squad.

Calleja named the former Golden Eaglets winger in the matchday squad for the Yellow Submarine’s UEFA Europa League match against Scottish giants Rangers on Thursday. Chukwueze then made his Villarreal debut by coming off the bench to replace Nicola Sansone.

Signed from Diamond Academy in the summer of 2017, Chukwueze played in Villarreal’s junior ranks the last term but was promoted to the reserve team ahead of this season.

“We’re using nearly all of our players and I think that’s a good thing. We need the whole squad,” Calleja told Villarreal’s official website following their Europa League clash with Rangers.

“Today, for example, Samuel Chukwueze made his debut, who is a player with a great future, but he has to carry on working hard.”

The 19-year-old has, however, featured for the Yellow Submarine in the Europa League, and marked his third appearance in the competition with an assist against Rapid Vienna last month.

Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr is clearly impressed with what he’s seen from the immensely talented left winger.

“Chukwueze has a good left foot, is quick, has a low centre of gravity – which gives him a very good balance – and can deliver and score,” the German coach told KweséESPN.

While the youngster may not feature against Bafana Bafana as the Super Eagles look to get over the line, he may well make his debut when the West African giants host Uganda in an international friendly a few days later.

He’d become the next standout Golden Eaglets performer to make the step up to the senior side.

Title-winning teammates and individual award winners from the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup squad, Victor Osimhen and Kelechi Nwakali beat Chukwueze to making their international bow, with the former returning to the senior fold ahead of the Bafana game.

Chukwueze has had to fight back from a near career mishap to get to this stage.

Days after winning the Bronze Ball – on the strength of three goals and three assists – and helping Nigeria win a fifth U-17 world title, football agency Stellar Group signed Chukwueze and three other players from the Nigerian squad.

The deal ought to have seen the highly sought-after star, who models his game on Arjen Robben, sign for a top European club, as those before him had done.

Perhaps the only snag hindering a potential move abroad was his age, as the attacker 16, and would have to wait for two years before he could sign professional terms.

The teenager returned home while awaiting news from his agents about a potential career move, and kept busy by shuttling between training and playing for Diamond Academy and the Nigeria U-20s, who were involved in the qualification for the ill-fated 2017 U-20 Africa Cup of Nations.

After celebrating his 17th birthday, he seemed poised to join Arsenal, alongside Nwakali, who signed a five-year contract with the Gunners.

However, Diamond Academy pulled the plug on the deal at the last minute, and Chukwueze began to slip out of the limelight, a situation made more challenging by his Golden Eaglets teammates of lesser profiles securing moves to Europe.

Undeterred by those series of disappointments, Chukwueze eventually packed his bags and journeyed to Spain, first joining Villarreal’s U-18 team, before being promoted to the B Team.

His superb performances with the Villarreal juniors have seen him regularly grab the headlines with his stunning pace, strength, skillset, goals and assists, and he’s edging closer to Calleja’s first-team.

Chukwueze’s emergence should come as positive news to Nigerian fans, with the national side lacking a naturally left-footed winger since the untimely retirement of Emmanuel Amuneke, who coached the wonderkid in the Eagles’ U-17 and U-20 teams.

Despite his relative inexperience, Rohr has identified the starlet’s raw talent and has handed him an audition in a team which, for all its outstanding attacking players, lacks a natural left winger to create panic and havoc on opposition defences with direct running, effective crossing and superb technique.

Considering the number of quality and experienced competitors ahead of Chukwueze in the Super Eagles squad, he must realise that he’s way down the pecking order.

However, the U-20 World Cup in Poland next year could present him with a valuable opportunity to assert himself.