Nigeria international Villarreal CF player, Samuel Chukwueze has revealed his wish for his 22nd birthday.
The star player opened up on a range of topics that include the influence of Kanu Nwankwo and JayJay Okocha on his career, his 22nd birthday wishes, amidst other topics in a virtual interaction orchestrated by LiveScore.com through their partnership with LaLiga Santander.
If you could create an ideal footballer from current or former players, who would you pick bits from – for example whose analytical brain, whose strength, whose feet?
I’m going to choose Zinedine Zidane for the football brain, Cristiano Ronaldo for strength and Lionel Messi for the feet.
May 22 is your birthday, what do you wish for your 22nd birthday?
I’d like you to tell me that I am going to win the UEFA Europa League, just tell me that! I want to win the UEFA Europa League, thanks!
Let’s get into your first memories of playing football as a child
For me it was about street football, street tournaments when I was growing up. I can remember when I was eight years old, I used to play with the older kids who would choose me for their team. When I used to dribble past two or three people, they used to knock me on the head, so those are the memories I have from when I was growing up.
At what age did you believe you could make it as a professional footballer?
I think that was when I was 14 years old, when I went to the Iber Cup. I won the highest goal scorer at the tournament, playing against young players from European teams Sevilla FC and RCD Espanyol, that was when I realised, I can take this football thing seriously.
Did you have any Nigerian or African football idols while growing up?
When I was young in Nigeria, I remember I loved watching Jay-Jay Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu. Every kid in Nigeria was watching them and these two were two of my idols growing up.
Tell us about your first appearance for the Super Eagles of Nigeria
The day I heard from somebody, ‘you are invited to the national team of Nigeria’, I didn’t believe it the first time. I called my mum and told her ‘Mum, I’ve been invited to the national team’, and she was so proud. I called my brother, and he was so happy too. It was a great moment, it was a dream come true for me. I had only just broken into the first team at Villarreal CF and they invited me, I couldn’t believe it. It was just amazing!
Your home city of Umuahia is notable for many reasons including politicians, actors, musicians, authors, and of course footballers with yourself included, what makes it such a rich and diverse place?
All of my heart is in Umuahia, I think that Umuahia is in the Bible. This state is in the Bible because God blessed this place, he blessed Umuahia, that is why it is amazing and great people come from that place.
Now you’ve had three seasons in LaLiga and played in the Europa League. Has your game changed in any way?
I think it has changed so much, coming from Nigeria to come and play in Europe at Villarreal CF. Before I saw football as entertainment just to play how I want, attack, dribble, to entertain the fans. Now I think I understand what it means to be tactically disciplined, knowing when to attack, when to defend. I think my overall understanding of the game has changed a huge amount.
Who is the most talented player you’ve played with during your time at Villarreal CF?
It has to be Santi Cazorla, he is a fantastic player who can play so well with both feet. He is special and very very talented.
Which teams have surprised you with their performances in LaLiga Santander this season?
I would say Cádiz CF and Atlético de Madrid are two teams I have been surprised by this year. Cádiz CF in particular, they have some really good players. They won at the Alfredo Di Stéfano against Real Madrid C.F. and they also won against FC Barcelona, two teams that it is great to win against. I think they are actually very good both tactically and also how they play.
If you could name one young player in LaLiga Santander to watch for the future, who would it be and why?
There are so many good players in LaLiga. You have Bryan Gil, Ansu Fati, and Yeremi Pino at Villarreal CF. For me, I would choose Yeremi – he’s a fantastic player. He’s a young lad, he has the speed and the talent, and importantly he is working very hard.
Who has impressed you the most in LaLiga Santander this season?
For me I am going to say my teammate Gerard Moreno. He has been amazing since LaLiga re-started. He has scored so many goals and always plays very well.
What advice would you give to other youngsters in Nigeria who dream of a career in professional football?
The only advice I should give them is work and be disciplined, both on the field and off it. That is the most important thing, to focus on where they are heading. They should forget about wanting to get money and instead focus on wanting to work hard. If they do this, everything else will follow.