Samuel Chukwueze has been one of the bright spots of Villarreal topsy-turvy season so far following his remarkable rise from Diamond Football Academy in Nigeria to the Spanish club.
After joining Villarreal just in 2017, Chukwueze’s talent has seen him rise to the senior team where he made his first-team debut in September 2018.
He has been eye-catching since his debut, impressing in a slew of games and despite Villarreal’s struggles this season so far, his stock has risen steadily.
But Villarreal’s poor season so far has made his rapid development somewhat unnoticed. But he was hard to miss at the Estadio de la Ceramica where Villarreal held Real Madrid to a 2-2 draw in a La Liga game on Thursday, January 3.
In his 90-minute appearance against the current European champions, the Nigerian tormented left-back Marcelo and the whole Real Madrid defence.
Starting on the left of a 4-3-3, Chukwueze gave Marcelo the running, first evading him in the early minutes to get a long pass but his effort after running towards goal was blocked by Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
He dominated the opening stages of the game giving Marcelo and Sergio Ramos the running around. Just four minutes into the game, he assisted Santi Cazorla to give Villarreal the lead.
He turned around Marcelo after receiving a pass and ran towards the Real Madrid box before playing a low pass for Cazorla who wasted no time, curling the ball past Courtois for Villarreal’s first goal.
Throughout the game, it was a battle with Marcelo on top with Chukwueze coming out tops.
One time in the first half, he grappled for the ball with Marcelo and dispossessed the Brazilian defender. He evaded Marcelo and Sergio Ramos at the edge of the Real Madrid penalty box but his shot was deflected by Casemiro.
Chukwueze looked a constant threat anytime he held the ball and halfway into the first half, sent Ramos the wrong way with a quick leg-over.
A few minutes later, he caused chaos in the Real Madrid box, going past Marcelo, Ramos and Toni Kroos in quick succession before he was dispossessed.
In the second half, he continued his menace, going past Marcelo, Ramos or any Real Madrid player that came his way.
The game finished 2-2 and while it was Cazorla that stole the headlines with his brace for Villarreal, it was Chukwueze who caught the eyes of every observer.
It was a performance that showed that he really belongs to the top level and Villarreal must now have realized that they have a gem in their hands.
According to Marca, Chukwueze is one of the players in Europe’s top five leagues who has progressed the most this season.
Villarreal have tied the player down in the summer, placing a release clause of €40m which now looks dangerously low.