SUPER EAGLES

Chukwueze failed his first Liverpool audition as a potential replacement for Salah

The 22-year-old was in action for Villarreal in their Champions League game against Jurgen Klopp's men but delivered an underwhelming display.

Chukwueze came up against Salah in Liverpool's win over Villarreal

A few years ago, Super Eagles winger Samuel Chukwueze was one of the hottest young prospects in the world, linked to many top clubs in Europe.

Liverpool were reportedly one of these clubs. The Reds were looking for an understudy who would eventually replace Mohamed Salah. At that time, Chukwueze seemed like the right fit, and rightly so.

Chukwueze's breakthrough year was the 2018/2019 season. He made his first-team debut for Villarreal that year, going on to have a remarkable year.

Still only 19 at that time, Chukwueze scored eight goals and recorded three assists in 38 games for Villarreal then. While critics may argue that his numbers were not impressive, it was, considering he was only 19 then, and it was his first year as a first-team player.

But it was not just the numbers alone for the youngster. His performance in the games against Barcelona and Real Madrid-Spain's two biggest clubs was remarkable.

He was a thorn in the flesh of Barcelona and Madrid defenders. His intelligent play was also way beyond his teenage years.

His assist for Santi Carzola in Villarreal's 2-2 draw against Madrid is still fresh in mind. At the end of 2019, Chukwueze's profile was on the rise, and his performance was rewarded with a KOPA trophy nomination at the Ballon d'Or awards.

As a result, it was not surprising to see him linked with a move to Liverpool as an understudy and a potential replacement for Salah. The Reds saw him as a player to take off the burden from Salah.

However, following his breakthrough year, Chukwueze never took his game to the next level. His development stalled a little bit. In his second season, he scored just four goals and provided six assists in 41 games for the Yellow Submarines.

Last season was more of the same, with just four goals and seven assists in 41 games. He has not done better this campaign, with just six goals and three assists in 32 games, although he started the season late due to a six-month layoff.

But despite his dip in form, Chukwueze still had the talent. And with Villarreal facing Liverpool, it provided him with the perfect opportunity to show Klopp that he could be the man to support Salah.

Liverpool had already signed Luis Diaz in January. However, Colombian operates naturally from the left, meaning the Reds were still searching for a right-winger, especially with Salah's future in doubt.

However, in what was his big audition, Chukwueze failed to show that he had what it takes to play for Liverpool. In fairness, he was not helped by how Unai Emery set up his Villarreal team.

The Yellow Submarines played most of the game in their half as they never had the quality to go toe-to-toe against the Reds.

Still, it was an underwhelming performance from the young Nigerian, showing no quality or signs of the player he was three years ago.

In his 72 minutes on the pitch, Chukwueze managed just 14 touches and completed just four out of six attempted passes.

The 22-year-old is known for his dribbling skills, but he never completed one dribble and was instead dribbled past two times.

This is not the performance to convince your potential suitors. And it is important to note that this is not just an isolated performance. Chukwueze's level has dropped since he first broke out as a talented teenager.

It is also the same issue with Chukwueze when he plays for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. He was tipped as Nigeria's next world-class talent, but he has not lived up to expectations.

He had the chance to prove his critics wrong on Wednesday night, but he never delivered. Nonetheless, with Villarreal hosting Liverpool in the second leg next week, Chukwueze has another opportunity to show his quality.

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