“My ambition Is To Play In The English Premier League” – Chukwueze
He may only be 20 years old. But Villareal’s Nigerian striker Samuel Chukwueze is not lacking in self-belief, a fact that Real Madrid and Barcelona – the top two clubs in Spain’s La Liga – can readily attest to, Bestchoicesports.com.ng understands.
“I know I can do anything on the pitch. I believe in myself,” Chukwueze told Osasu Obayiuwana in an exclusive conversation.
“When the team (Villareal) is looking up to me to do so many things, there was a lot of pressure on me to perform. But I decided to ignore that pressure and just play my game. My La Liga debut last season was a dream.
“When you’re playing a big team, everyone supports them. People thought Barcelona would beat us that day. But I was ready and my coach gave me the freedom to express myself on the field. It was a great feeling to show my qualities against Lionel Messi, the best player in the world.”
Chukwueze’s sterling performances against Real and Barca were the highlight of his debut La Liga season. It also earned him a call-up to the Super Eagles, winning a 2019 AFCON bronze medal in Egypt.
He makes no secret of his next football destination after La Liga.
“My ambition is to play in the English Premier League. But I want to go to a club where I am really wanted, where I will be a starting player, I don’t want to be on the bench. The coach [of any English Premiership club] has to want me and the owner of the club has to want me. The coach of Villareal wanted me and gave me the confidence to play.”
Liverpool was said to be interested in the services of Chukwueze, during the off season.
“I heard, like everyone else, that they were interested in me,” he smiles. But I am a Villareal player and I still have four years left on my contract, so I have to focus on that and do my best for them.”
Adjusting to life in Spain, with no family or friends – and learning a new language – has not been an easy task for Chukwueze.
“It can be lonely at times. I usually video-call my family back in Nigeria. And occupy my time watching movies and clips of my old games.”
“They say that when you’re in Rome you need to act like a Roman… I’m adapting. After my training sessions, I usually go for my Spanish lessons, so I can improve my language skills.
“I am able to order food in the restaurant now and make basic requests. But when I first arrived in Spain and couldn’t speak the language at all, people had to escort me to the restaurant, to help me order what I liked to eat. If I didn’t do that and I tried to tell them myself, they never understood me!” Chukwueze laughs.
Like every Nigerian who can’t do without the traditional food staples – Eba, Pounded Yam and Egusi soup – Chukwueze goes on a regular expedition to ensure he has his creature comforts.
“We don’t get Nigerian food in my city. So, whenever we have an off day or two, I usually drive to Valencia, which takes one hour and I am able to get what I need there. They are usually all cooked for me, so I just get them and take home.”
Chukwueze is quite emphatic about what he must achieve, after scoring five goals in last season’s La Liga. “I want to score a minimum of 15 goals this season. This is my target.”
And as he freely admits, he can still raise his game by a few notches. “I want to be able to play with my right foot better. Everytime the ball comes to my right foot, I take it to my left. I also think that my finishing can improve.”
That Chukwueze sees himself as an unfinished product should be extremely frightening for defenders everywhere. And a delight for expectant fans of Nigeria’s Super Eagles.The best is yet to come from this explosive talent.
By Osasu Obayiuwana