On September 20, 2018, Villarreal played out a 2-2 draw against Rangers in a Europa League match, but the result was not the only talking point that day.
On that magical night at the Estadio de la Cerámica, a future African star in the person of Samuel Chukwueze was given his debut by Villarreal manager Javier Calleja.
The 20-year-old came on in the 79th minute of the encounter for Nicola Sansone as Villarreal were held at home by Steven Gerrard’s men.
While Chukwueze did not score in that match, he showed glimpses of why he’s the next big football star to come from Nigeria. After making his debut that night, Chukwueze went on to play in subsequent Europa League games, while he also made his La Liga debut against Levante.
He scored his first goal for the Yellow Submarines against Rayo Vallecano, but it was games against two of Spain’s biggest clubs (Real Madrid and Barcelona) that Chukwueze announced himself to the world.
Playing against Real Madrid, Chukwueze was a thorn in the flesh of Los Blancos’ defenders with the likes of Marcelo Viera and Sergio Ramos failing to cope with the pace and skills of the winger.
He capped his performance that night with a brilliant assist for Santi Carzola as Villarreal played out a 2-2 draw against their more illustrious opponent.
If his performance that night did not convince people totally, the home game against Barcelona cleared all lingering doubts. In what was a thrilling encounter, Chukwueze was unplayable in that game as his pace and trickery left defenders like Pique and Jordi Alba in the dust.
He scored a superb goal in that encounter, and since then Chukwueze’s profile has been on the rise. He signed a deal with Roc Nation Sports, joining players like Jerome Boateng and Romelu Lukaku. Despite making his debut last season, Chukwueze was selected in Nigeria’s squad that finished third at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, playing a key role in the run.
His performances last season earned him a nomination in the Kopa award list, an award given out by France Football to the best U-21 player in Europe.
Although he finished in 9th place, Chukwueze was nominated alongside talents like Matthijs De Ligt (winner), Jadon Sancho, and Joao Felix.
The Super Eagles star has become indispensable for both club and country since making his debut. He has scored three goals and registered three assists in 19 appearances for the Yellow Submarines this campaign.
However, while Chukwueze is enjoying his football in the east of Spain, it may be the perfect moment for him to move to a bigger club.
The Nigerian international attracted interest from Barcelona last summer, but nothing came out of it, and he continued his development with Villarreal.
But with Chelsea and Liverpool said to be interested in him, this could be the perfect time for the Nigerian star to leave. Although a move to Liverpool may not be the best for his development, Chelsea will take his game to the next level, and raise his already increasing profile.
The 20-year-old has earned comparisons with former Blues star Arjen Robben, while he also revealed the former Netherlands international was his idol growing up.
And with Chelsea lacking a natural right-winger since Robben left, Chukwueze could be the perfect man to fill in that role. Although history shows Chelsea may not be the right place for a youngster like Chukwueze, Frank Lampard’s appears to be changing that.
The former Derby manager has relied on a combination of youth and experience in what has been a decent season for Chelsea so far. And with Lampard showing his trust in youth, a move to Stamford Bridge will benefit Chukwueze both short term and long term.
Also, the Blues do not have a natural right-winger, and that gives Chukwueze the edge over Callum Hudson Odoi and Pulisic. Not only will the move be a good thing for his football, but it will also increase his popularity. The Premier League is the most-watched league in the world, and a move to Chelsea gives him a chance to play in front of a larger audience. A move to Stamford Bridge gives him a higher chance of winning trophies, and that will put him in consideration for the individual awards.
The Nigerian international has also revealed before he is a fan of Chelsea, and he could move to the Stamford Bridge in the future.
Although he just signed a new deal at Villarreal with a release clause of 100m euros, reports suggest El Submarí are willing to sell him for just £53m.
Should Chelsea be willing to pay that price for his services, then Chukwueze should seize the opportunity, and maybe he could be the Blues next Arjen Robben.