According to recent reports in local media, Super Eagles most exciting winger Samuel Chukwueze aspires to be the first Nigerian to win the much coveted African Footballer of the Year award for the first time in well over 15 years and also rub shoulders with the crème de la crème of the global football fraternity.
Lofty ambitions indeed however, if the 20 year old’s performances this season are expected to be viewed as a barometer of what is to come, then expecting him to achieve those goals would be a tough ask indeed.
As widely known, Chukwueze took the Spanish La Liga by storm last season with performance that were just jaw dropping at times. I recall the game against Real Madrid where the then 19 year old made seasoned defenders look like amateurs.
His pace, close control, long and short range passes and take-on capabilities drew comparisons to the legendary Arjen Robben of Holland. Spanish football expert Guillem Balague said on BBC last year: “Only 19, Chukwueze is an attacking midfielder who can play in both wide areas and his dribbling ability is unbelievable. He has already scored in the league and cup and you have a player who is new and exciting to watch.”
The Super Eagles winger ended that season (2018/19) with 5 goals and 2 assists in 26 league matches and 2 goals and 0 assist in the 3 Copa del Rey. His performances attracted considerable critical acclaim and won him individual youth awards and recognition. At his young age, his performance could also be attributed to his fast-track admission into the Super Eagles for the 2019 afcon having been in line to initially go to the under-20 world cup.
I equate Chukwueze’s 18/19 La Liga season to England’s Raheem Sterling’s inaugural 15/16 season at Manchester City when the then-20 year old winger scored 6 goals and provided 2 assists in 32 league matches. Sterling would follow this up the next season with 7 goals and 10 assists in 33 league matches.
Analysing this, Sterling’s goal scoring remained constant whilst his assists improved by a gigantic 250% within 12 months. If you then compare his 16/17 season with his 17/18 (where he scored and a mammoth 18 goals and provided 15 assists in 33 games), you will see improvements of 157% in goal scoring and 50% in assists deliveries.
Over the 3 seasons I just explored, these are graphical curve of a player literally shooting for the stars! The improvements are not just piecemeal but quite exponential.
Back to Chukwueze; comparing 18/19 and 19/20 season (where he has thus far scored 3 goals and provided 3 assists in the same number of matches as last season), his goals scoring have depreciated by 40% whilst his assists have improved by 50% (piecemeal improvement if you consider the fact that he has just 1 assist better than last season).
Also Chukwueze has started fewer games: 13 games this season as against 19 (a drop of 32%).
In the Copa Del Rey, he has played more games this season ( 4 against 3 last season) but scored less goals (1 against 2 last season) underscoring further depreciation in club competition.
Samuel Chukwueze is a quality play who has the touch of magic and capabilities to achieve his own ambitions. However, the numbers have to be looking far better than what they look at the moment before anyone can take his ambitions seriously.
If the stats remain the same or even regresses further, there is nothing to say that he would not be considered like a player like Alex Iwobi (who is seen as hard working, fervent, committed, dedicated and passionate but sorely lacking in consistently displaying the attributes of a world class player worthy of winning the African Footballer of the Year).