By Betty Akota
Villarreal of Spain winger, Samuel Chukwueze has come out with a down-to-earth confession that the youth club that produced him, Diamond Football Academy of Umuahia helped him get his career breakthrough in La Liga, even after his early hopes were dashed by Arsenal of England, FC Porto of Portugal and Red Bull Salzburg of Austria.
Chukwueze, who has been nominated for African Young Player of The Year at the upcoming CAF Awards in Dakar, Senegal, disclosed that he had to head back to Umuahia to pick up the piece and stay focused on getting a successful career, following the various rejections he got after winning gold with the cadet national team, Golden Eaglets at Chile 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Speaking against the backdrop of the academy’s seventh year anniversary on Wednesday in the Abia State capital, Chukwueze said he owes the team a lot of gratitude for welcoming him back and according him the opportunity to keep training with them until he got a fresh opportunity to go abroad, which turned out to be the deal with Villarreal.
Although he had been one of Nigeria’s main revelations in that championship, alongside Victor Osimhen, Kelechi Nwakali and Orji Okwonkwo, Chukwueze recalled that his thoughts of a roller-coaster ride into a top European club did not materialize, but the academy gave him the base to relaunch himself, rather than allow an emotional setback cause more problems for his game.
He went on to disclose that the academy, which will this Wednesday organize their seventh year anniversary and present awards to some esteemed Nigeria football personalities, stood by him in his time of need, following his failed target of joining Arsenal, Porto and Salzburg.
He was voted the third highest goals scorer at Chile 2015, with three goals and three assists to his name, but his dream of sealing a five-year deal at Arsenal, following a successful medical at the London club collapsed after they failed to reach an agreement on financial terms.
However, after he finally sealed the move to Villarreal, following several months of training in Umuahia, Chukwueze reasoned that the disappointment of not joining any of the three clubs turned into a blessing, as it has now worked in his favour for the long term of his career.
Chukwueze recalled: ”When I had so many options to sign with Porto, Arsenal and Salzburg but it didn’t happen, I went back to my academy and started training all over again. It was difficult for me at that moment; because my teammates had signed some contracts with their teams and I was back home training with my academy – before Villarreal picked me up.
”I think I am in a perfect place because of the setback. Assuming I went to the club that I was looking at, maybe I won’t be where I am today. So, it taught me some lessons. It shows me that you need to keep your head down and keep working harder. If things are not working properly as you think, you need to keep you head down.”