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Samuel Chukwueze: The one-v-one phenomenon in AC Milan

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Football has always come easy to Samuel Chukwueze, but it hasn’t always been the game that he was destined to play.

“I got home from training really late again when I was 13”, he recalled in an interview with the Spanish football show El Dia Despues, “so my mother took my boots, my training top, put it all in a rubbish bag and burnt it all.”

A distraction from his studies, Chukwueze’s passion interfered with his future.

It was only his grandmother, eventually talking the family around, that allowed ‘Samu’ his shot at stardom. Trials close to home in Nigeria followed, with a trip to play a tournament in Portugal his reward for being one of the best players.

The first time that he had ever left his hometown, and with his mother’s blessing, Chukwueze dazzled with his dribbling and never looked back.

Just 10 years on from watching his only pair of boots smoulder, Chukwueze finds himself making a move to one of Europe’s most illustrious clubs, AC Milan, having already created history with another.

Aged 16, he signed a pre-contract with Spanish side Villarreal, after a deal with Arsenal fell through.

Five seasons and 207 appearances later, Chukwueze not only helped the Yellow Submarine to their first-ever major honour, lifting the UEFA Europa League in 2021, but he also fired them into the following season’s Champions League semi-final with an unforgettable breakaway goal at Bayern Munich.

“Everyone loves Samu”, a source at Villarreal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their position, told The Athletic. “No one at the club has a bad word to say about him.”

“He’s always really happy and in a good mood. His rise from the under-19s to the first team took less than a year, which is unheard of really.”

He is shy and grounded off the pitch, but he lets his football do the talking.

An admirer of Jay-Jay Okocha as he grew up, years of devotion to dribbling means that Chukwueze is one of few players in Europe that can consistently tie defenders in knots.

Operating primarily on the right flank, the 24-year-old often wastes no time in taking on his man, always looking to tempt the challenge with an attacking first touch before jinking away from the outstretched boot.

Even when opposing teams double up, Chukwueze’s commitment and creativity mean that he is still difficult to mark out of the game, as shown below against Real Sociedad, squirming between two challenges before bearing down on goal and forcing a good save from Alex Remiro.

The numbers paint a similar picture, showing Chukwueze to be one of the most efficient dribblers in La Liga. As the scatter plot below shows, Chukwueze boasted the second-highest success rate of any player to have attempted more than six take-ons per game last season, beating his man 49.1 percent of the time.

While not quite as relentless in the volume of his attempts as Vinicius Junior, Chukwueze was the closest player to the Brazilian in terms of the overall total of successful dribbles across the whole of 2022-23, having beaten his man on 86 occasions. Vinicius completed 112, but from 131 more attempts than the Nigerian. Quality enables Chukwueze to keep up with quantity.

More than ever, he is following up his take-ons with end product, especially when it comes to creating chances for his team-mates. Last season was the Nigerian’s most prolific in terms of assists — providing five killer passes, all from the left half-space.

His dribbling has been crucial for Villarreal to pick their way through stubborn blocks, like against the five-man defence of Getafe below.

As usual, Chukwueze receives the ball on the right and instantly squares up to his man. Aware of his ability to chop inside, striker Borja Mayoral drops deep to block Chukwueze’s route to a left-footed shot on goal.

Manipulating the ball with quick touches, Chukwueze feints to cut inside before producing a quick stepover and then ducking away to the right, leaving Gaston Alvarez wrong-footed, poking his boot at fresh air.

Having escaped the challenge, Chukwueze drives towards the byline and rolls the ball back for Jose Luis Morales to score.

When it comes to taking on the shot himself, Chukwueze has a trademark.

Much like Antony at Manchester United, the Nigerian often looks to cut in from the right and aim for the far corner. As the shot-location graphic below illustrates, Chukwueze isn’t afraid to try his luck from range, and particularly likes the zone to the right of the penalty area, allowing him plenty of distance to set the ball outside the post and bend it into the corner.

Most notably, Chukwueze scored a sensational winning goal at the Santiago Bernabeu last season, to top off the best individual performance of his Villarreal career.

Receiving the ball on the corner of the box, he shuffles across the edge of the penalty area before guiding a perfectly placed shot beyond the despairing dive of Thibaut Courtois.

There have been some spectacular efforts along the way too, as against Sevilla below, where Chukwueze’s dribbling ability saw him burst past Marcos Acuna before unleashing an effort that bounced off the crossbar and away.

The data suggests that, while his shooting technique has undeniably improved, Chukwueze could benefit from varying his decision-making when he receives the ball with space to shoot.

Despite being his primary shooting zone, the below shot map outlines an area from which Chukwueze scored only once from 67 attempts on goal across his five seasons in the Spanish top flight.

All but one of those attempts were left-footed efforts, with 20 drifting wide of the left post and a further 24 being blocked, pointing to an insistence at finding that curled finish towards the far corner.

He can sometimes try to force the angle, leading to overhit shots as he tries to force a way through no matter what.

Here against Real Betis, for example, Chukwueze receives the pass and instantly sets up to cut inside, controlling the ball with the outside of his boot. Juan Foyth had made a storming underlapping run, but the winger has already made up his mind.

Having darted away from full-back Juan Miranda, Chukwueze is charged down by Andres Guardado, and elects to quickly take the shot before the shooting angle is closed. Leaning back, his rushed attempt flies over the bar and into the stands.

His dribbling was as incisive as always, drawing in three players and creating space for the simple lay-off, but Chukwueze would benefit from resisting his favourite shot more often, especially when the set-up is not quite right.

He certainly has the ability to mix things up — emphatically shown by his assist against Getafe — and he tends to be effective when he decides to drive to the touchline.

His attacking carries map below tells much the same story, affirming not only his productivity down the right-hand side with the ball at his feet but also his improved output when he releases it.

Chukwueze is too talented to stop taking on the spectacular shot, but slightly more variety in the final action would surely see his attacking output increase.

While generally a touchline-hugging winger, Chukwueze can be extremely effective when he wanders into smaller spaces in the middle of the pitch.

During a sizzling run of form between February and April last season, Chukwueze scored five, assisted three more and won a crucial penalty in the space of just eight games. Chukwueze was notably effective in central areas in this spell, from a first-time volley against Osasuna to a delicate dinked finish at Mallorca.

His opener at the Bernabeu highlighted how dangerous he can be from the middle, applying the effortless finishing touch to his dribble in one sweeping move.

Similarly, in a Champions League-chasing clash with Real Sociedad, Chukwueze picks up the ball further back, immediately looking to run at the back-line. First, he chops inside Igor Zubeldia and bursts through the gap…

Joining up with the similarly electric Rafael Leao at San Siro, you can be sure that Serie A full-backs and centre-backs alike will be drawing nervous red rings around their dates with the Rossoneri in 2023-24.

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Real Madrid step up Alexander-Arnold interest

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Real Madrid are reported to have made concrete steps in their push to sign Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Real Madrid are reported to have made concrete steps in their push to sign Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Alexander-Arnold has entered the final 12 months of his contract with Liverpool, with talks over an extension being delayed by the Reds’ need to find a new sporting hierarchy and manager earlier this summer.

90min first reported of Madrid’s interest in Alexander-Arnold in March, when the right-back was known to be both relaxed and understanding about the delay in resolving his future at Anfield.

However, now in the final year of his current deal, Alexander-Arnold’s situation has piqued the interest of several top sides and Christian Falk claims Madrid are now “getting concrete” with their push to sign the 25-year-old.

It is claimed that Madrid have been in contact with Alexander-Arnold for the past month and the Liverpool star has expressed an interest in moving to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Having now ended his Euro 2024 journey with England, Alexander-Arnold will be free to speak with Liverpool about his future and the Reds are likely to pursue a speedy resolution before he enters the final six months of his deal and can formally speak with other clubs.

Alexander-Arnold’s stance on his Liverpool future is not yet clear, but he did suggest he was already thinking about next season with the Reds during an interview with club media in May.

“It was a good season, built on last season, got better as a team, challenged for the title, took it far and we improved,” he said. “Any time you improve means that it’s a good season. Take the positives and move forward and hopefully again next season.”

As for Madrid, right-back has long been suggested as an area in need of strengthening but, while a replacement for 32-year-old Dani Carvajal will be needed eventually, the Spain veteran is arguably in the best form of his career and is an outside contender for the 2024 Ballon d’Or thanks to his ludicrous trophy haul over the past 12 months.

 

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Tinubu’s One Year Anniversary: The State Of Sports Under John Owan Enoh

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President Bola Ahmed Tinubu's qualitative leadership was demonstrated in the demerger of sports from other sectors. For the

By Diana Mary Nsan

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s qualitative leadership was demonstrated in the demerger of sports from other sectors. For the first time in the nation, a Federal Ministry of Sports Development was established to explore the potential in the sports sector, potentials which will impact significantly on the nation’s growth.Along the lines of creating employment opportunities, curbing insecurity , contributing to the Nations GDP etc

Senator John Owan Enoh the Honourable Minister of Sports Development is known for his hands-on approach and commitment to succeed in any given assignment, proven time and again as a lawmaker.

To gain a firm grasp of the sports sector, the minister performed a critical analysis, identified problems and opportunities, engaged stakeholders extensively, and began implementing policies to bring about enduring systemic change. These policies, some of which are revolutionary, have led to accelerated development of sports in the country. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

Activating and enabling a welfare system that caters for serving and retired athletes, as well as an annual recognition platform.

With Senator Enoh’s priority presentation to the Presidency, President Tinubu cleared all the debts accumulated by the past administration in the funding of football, in excess of N12 billion. This demonstrates a significant commitment to looking out for the welfare of sportsmen and women. The money was transferred directly into the coffers of the NFF, as the minister’s first motivation in politics has never been greed. He runs on a transparency module. At the time of this publication, the figures for financial interventions have climbed to about 17 billion naira as the welfare of athletes is a priority under the renewed Hope agenda of President Tinubu.

Transparency and openness in the disbursement of athletes’ funds, by paying through the apex bank for the 13th All Africa Games. This policy ensures that no athlete is shortchanged. This genuine change experienced some teething problems in the form of delays in payment of a few athletes, but it is all sorted now.

Visitation and follow-up checks on injured athletes receiving medical attention during and after competitions. The minister always follows up on the wellbeing of the injured in the sports industry.

To end the usual bickering amongst athletes and officials, John Enoh has pushed and gotten the approval of the National Council on Sports for the establishment of a Court of Arbitration to handle matters within the sector instead of resorting to civil courts. This speaks to his love for decorum as a leader.

The welfare plan touches every Nigerian. At the 1st National Council on sports held in Enugu State, Nigeria on the 22nd of May, the minister sought the approval of the council that the Federal Ministry of Sports Development presents a memorandum to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to designate 2nd August of every year as National Sports and Fitness Day in Nigeria. A brainchild he nurses to address the wellbeing of Nigerians in general, as the ever-increasing number of cases of non-communicable diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, cardiac disease, cancers, etc., globally is of great concern to the World Health Organization and nationals of the world. The health benefits of physical activity are firmly established in medicine. Nigeria loses about $1.5b to $2b yearly to medical tourism. Senator Enoh’s push for physical fitness as a lifestyle for Nigerians is commendable. This will further boost sports merchandise and add to the nation’s GDP.

Nigeria has always been in the eye of the storm when it comes to doping, and the minister swung into immediate action to proffer a solution by ensuring the transmission of the national anti-doping bill to the National Assembly to ensure Nigeria has a befitting anti-doping organization that is compliant with the world anti-doping code, a process of redeeming the reputation of our nation through sports is indeed commendable.This is salvagingbthe image if the country globally.

Sports as Buisness .Sports as a means and source of livelihood and entertainment to Nigerians.

The minister’s adoption of the National Sports Industry Policy clearly shows his genuine intention of developing the sports sector by seeing it as Business. The future of Nigerian sports lies in the private sector, this is an advocacy of the minister. His engaging with key players in the private sector is a testimony to his desire to further develop the NSIP to secure the interest of the private sector. An example is the capitalization of the local leagues currently underway.

INFRASTRUCTURE development: Investment in building and revamping stadia, as well as focus on grassroots sports facilities.

Senator John Owan Enoh kicked off his tenure with the inspection of sporting facilities at national and zonal levels and is currently partnering with the private sector for the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure. A key example is the partnership with EFFA Management, which covers the rehabilitation of sporting facilities.

Funding for sports development: The government is exploring collaborative funding models with the private sector to revolutionize sports in Nigeria. Groundbreaking agreements with key private sector players like GTI Assets and Yanga Games Ltd on the 19th of April 2024 are indications of the resolve to leverage innovation, technology, and human expertise.

Activation of grassroots sports development: Senator Enoh is pushing for early age (under-18) sports and revitalization of school sports. Introducing NIN submission to enable thorough screening of athletes at the Youth Games is aimed at allowing new talents to be unearthed within the age range of 13-18 years.

Reorganization of Sports Federations for impact: The administration is keen on implementing the 10-year football master plan, expanding the NFF congress, and developing a template to properly scrutinize those vying to be presidents of Federations.

Ministerial Podium Performance Team: The Honourable Minister of Sports Development has set up a team to handle Training Load Management, improved performance of athletes, accountability of sports administrators, anti-doping education, and a scientific approach to training programs. Teams that comply with the plan always perform excellently.

Nigeria’s performance in sports: Nigeria had an outstanding performance at the 13th All African Games in Accra, Ghana. The country finished second overall, winning a total of 121 medals composed of 47 gold medals, 33 silver, and 41 bronze medals. The Super Eagles of Nigeria won the Silver Medal in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after 23 years.

Refereeing in the country: After the Confederation of African Football (CAF) snubbed Nigerian match officials in its 2023 AFCON list, the minister declared a state of emergency on refereeing in the country, leading to the establishment of a roadmap for the rejuvenation of officiating.

Achievements in women’s sports: The Super Falcons were named the Team of the Year in Africa at the 2023 CAF Awards, and Chiamaka Nnadozie was named the first-ever African Goalkeeper of the Year. Elizabeth Oshoba became the first Nigerian female boxer to win a world title.

Under Sen. John Enoh’s leadership, Nigeria qualified for the Youth Winter Olympics for the first time ever in South Korea.

With a great sense of national pride, I am excited to announce that the Super Falcons have qualified for the Paris Olympics 2024 after 16 years. This is a significant achievement for Sen. John Enoh as the sports minister, and it reflects his consistent support and leadership that has led to this success.

Team Nigeria athletes have already begun securing qualifications for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, which will take place in the summer of 2024. The Honourable Minister has established a high-powered ministerial committee to create a strategic roadmap for the Games and to improve the nation’s chances of performing well at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Thus far, record shows that the number of qualified athletes for the Olympics representing Nigeria is the best the nation has recorded.

Every detail, including athlete hygiene, is being carefully considered. The preparation of athletes for the Paris Olympics is also being prioritized.

In other news, Tobi Amusan set a new African Women’s indoor record in the 60-meter hurdles at the Astana Indoor Meet in Kazakhstan, as well as a world-leading time at the Jamaica Athletics Invitational.

Additionally, Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen was named African Footballer of the Year, making him the first Nigerian to win the award in 24 years.

Nigeria’s basketball team, Rivers Hoopers, has made history by qualifying for the semi finals for the first time in BAL (Basketball Africa League) in Dakar, Senegal. This is the first time a Nigerian basketball team has reached this stage.

The 4x400m relay team also set a new African record of 3:12.87, marking the first time in 28 years. All of these achievements have taken place within the first nine months of Senator Enoh’s tenure in office.

It’s also worth noting that the National Council on Sports was held in Enugu from the 20th to the 22nd of May 2024. This council, as the highest decision-making body in the sports sector, is taking the first steps in a series of actions to address longstanding issues in the sector. This seems to be the most commendable sports council meeting to date.

The commencement of the Nigeria Sports Data Aggregator System (NISDAS)

In conclusion, while the work of the sports minister is far from over, it is clear that significant progress is being made, and the future looks promising.

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Manu Garba proud of Eaglets as team countenances Niger Republic

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Coach Manu Garba has asserted that he is proud of the Golden Eaglets after Thursday’s scoreless encounter with their Burkina Faso

Coach Manu Garba has asserted that he is proud of the Golden Eaglets after Thursday’s scoreless encounter with their Burkina Faso counterparts in the Group B opener of the WAFU B U17 Championship.

Five-time champions Nigeria created several scoring chances particularly late in the game at the Accra University Stadium, but failed to utilise even one that could have earned them the three points and handed them early leadership of the pool.

However, Garba said the boys played a cohesive game in their first-ever international outing and deserve credit for their display.

“We are proud of our team’s performance. Although we didn’t secure the win that we hoped for, our players showed great teamwork and sportsmanship. We look forward to our next match and the opportunity to continue growing and improving.

“The boys will get better with experience and exposure.”

Against the Burkinabes, the Eaglets showed flair and fluency, but a heavy downpour in the final 15 minutes of the game disrupted the general flow of play, with the pitch waterlogged and effective control and passing impossible.

The Golden Eaglets go up against their counterparts from the Niger Republic on Sunday evening (6pm Ghana time; 7pm Nigeria) with renewed hope and vigour to pick up the three points that will enhance their chances of a place in the last four.

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