Chukwueze: Playing In LaLiga has taught me to be tactically disciplined
LiveScore.com in partnership with LaLiga recently hosted an interactive session with LaLiga Santander and Villarreal CF player, Samuel Chukwueze. The Super Eagles player spoke on a range of issues, including his football career, journey in LaLiga and his desire to win UEFA Europa cup.
How did you encounter football, what are your first memories of playing 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 decide to take up football as a profession?
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 idols growing up? Specifically, were there any Nigerian or African players you aspired to be like?
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.
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.
Tell us about your first appearance for Nigeria, how did you feel wearing the national team jersey?
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 in to the first team at Villarreal CF and they invited me, I couldn’t believe it. It was just amazing!”
Your home city of Umuahia has many notable residents, with 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.
Has your game changed in any way now you’ve had three seasons in LaLiga and played in the Europa League?
I think it has changed so much, coming from Nigeria to come and play in Europe at Villarreal CF. Before, I saw football as entitlement 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 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 been your stand-out performer in LaLiga Santander this season? Who has impressed you the most?
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.
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 the strength and Lionel Messi for the feet.
It’s your birthday next month, if we could grant you any wish what would it be for?
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.
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