One constant thing about football is change, which looks like a paradox or oxymoron, anything you want to call it. For a player, the change could be positive or negative, especially with the player's development and progress.
Will the real Samuel Chukwueze please stand up?
The Super Eagles star's development has stalled since he broke out in 2018.
Super Eagles star Samuel Chukwueze is an example of a player whose development and progress have been on a negative turn.
The former Golden Eaglets star came into the spotlight in the 2018/2019 season with Villarreal, scoring eight goals and providing three assists in 38 appearances for the Yellow Submarines, which was a decent return for a 19-year-old in his first year in the top flight.
Chukwueze's big breakthrough
However, while Chukwueze's numbers were impressive in his first year, it was his performances in the big games that set him apart. He was brilliant in the games against Barcelona and Real Madrid- the biggest clubs in Spain.
The Nigerian international was a thorn in the flesh of both Barcelona and Real Madrid defenders. Chukwueze was not fazed by the big names, even though he was just 19 at that time.
He gave Jordi Alba a hard time in the 4-4 draw, scoring and providing an assist, and not forgetting his brilliant pass for Santi Carzola that helped Villarreal to a 2-2 draw against Real Madrid that same season.
It was indeed a superb performance from him that year. Chukwueze's display in his first season in the top flight earned him a call-up to the Nigerian national team, and he continued in the same vein, scoring for the Super Eagles against South Africa at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
After his break-out year for both club and country, big things were expected from Chukwueze. He was tipped to go on and become Nigeria's next world-class star.
Chukwueze is still yet to fulfil his potential
It is important to note that Chukwueze was a member of Nigeria's U17 team that ruled the world in 2015. In that squad, there was also a certain Victor Osimhen, who was also in the Super Eagles AFCON 2019 squad. But as of 2019, Chukwueze's trajectory was slightly higher than Osimhen's.
However, three years later, Chukwueze is far behind Osimhen in terms of their progress and development.
While he did get a Kopa award nomination at the end of 2019, the 22-year-old has failed to progress from his break-out season. In his second season with the Yellow Submarines, he scored four goals and registered six assists in all competitions. He delivered a similar number in his third year, scoring five goals and assisting another seven.
Last season was not any better, with the Nigerian registering five goals and three assists across all competitions. These numbers do not show progress in Chukwueze's development.
For a player who was tipped to go on to do big things following his first season in the top flight, it is quite disappointing that Chukwueze still has not had a ten-goal season. His end product has always been a major flaw in his game, and it is worrying that it has not improved three years later.
It is not just about the end product alone, Chukwueze's decision-making has gotten worse each season. His overall impact on games has reduced, which is quite a disappointment, considering it was one of the best aspects of his game in his first year with the Yellow Submarines.
His dribbling skills have not left him, averaging 3.52 dribbles per game. However, his impact on games, especially in the attacking third, is worrying.
In his first year at Villarreal, Chukwueze had 23 shots on target, with five ending in the back of the net. But last year, he only managed seven shots on goal, which is a sharp decline from his first year at La Liga.
In the 2019/2020 season- his second year, Chukwueze was involved in 14 goal-creating actions but was involved in just seven last season.
Although he was injured for the early part of last season, his performances were still disappointing. While he has not lost his dribbling ability, it is not as effective as it used to be. The Nigerian international completed 11 dribbles that led to a shot in his first season in La Liga but only completed nine last season.
This is another example of where Chukwueze's development is currently. His development has stalled and has not really progressed since his first year.
At the moment, his career is like a mirage, which is quite sad, considering the promise he showed in his break-out year. Although he is only 22, Chukwueze is one of the senior members in the current Villarreal squad. However, he has fallen down the pecking order and has been reduced to the role of a substitute.
Chukwueze's big season
Nonetheless, the Nigerian international can still turn his career around. The talent is still there, and age is still on his side. He just needs to add more to his game and improve his decision-making.
This season offers him an opportunity to remind fans of his qualities, but he needs to use every chance he gets effectively.
He is no longer a starter at Villarreal, but he can use every cameo appearance to convince Unai Emery and critics that he still has what it takes to be world-class.
The Nigerian international's development has stalled in the last two years, but he can pick it up again this season.
It is time for the real Samuel Chukwueze to stand up.