The Under17 World Cup in Chile during the latter part of 2015 would have passed under the radar of even the most die-hard of football fans. Even the most zealous of hipster may have missed out on proceedings, leading to them sobbing into their neckerchiefs.
What happened on the pitch was that Nigeria were crowned champions for the 5th time, defeating surprise finalists Mali in the final – and sweeping all before them on the way. The top scorer was Nigerian. All opponents struggled to compete against the powerful African nation, and the best player of the tournament was Nigerian too.
That player was Kelechi Nwakali – and he is finally an Arsenal player.
Arsenal chased after Nwakali straight after his imperious showings in the tournament, and in January, Arsene Wenger commented on the player and his imminent transfer to the Gunners –
We identified Nwakali as the player of the tournament [at the under-17 World Cup], basically, and as a top player. We will see if we can manage to get it over the line during this transfer period. – thanks to Arseblog for the quote.
The transfer has taken from that moment until the 4th of August, but finally the Nigerian attacking midfielder has put pen to paper. International commitments, work permits and various other troublesome strips of red tape have combined to delay Nwakali joining up with the Gunners squad, but it has now been confirmed by the club that he is indeed an Arsenal player, and through the marvels of social media, we have seen the player himself post pics of him at London Colney.
Is this another damp squib of a youth signing? A player of mysterious potential destined to disappear to other shores and ultimate ignominy? Or does our club’s dogged chase of him for over half a year speak of a player who can make a huge difference in the future?
Nwakali was the fulcrum of Nigeria’s attacking intent during their run to victory in the Under17 World Cup. Scoring three goals, and laying on the majority of goals for 10goal hitman Victor Osimhen, Nwakali was awarded the Best Player in the tournament for good reason.
Can he convert his talent to the Premier League? His next step will perhaps be the most vital. A season on loan is the next step, and he will need to impress immediately.
All of this is pure projection however. Gooners can take pride in the fact that we have captured one of the brightest talents in youth football. Only Nwakali can answer the questions regarding his future.
Nwakali could join Nwankwo Kanu and Alex Iwobi as other Nigerians who have made their mark on Arsenal’s first team, and will have the best of resources to make that happen.