England international Bukayo Saka has traveled down memory lane and admitted he doubted if he could play for Arsenal’s first team. The winger believed his chances were slim given the number of stars in the Gunners squad.
The 18-year-old, signed his first professional contract at 17, following his magnificent performance for the Gunners youth team. Thanks to an impressive performance by the wing-back he was promoted to the senior team. His debut for the senior team came back in November 2018 during their Europa League clash against Vorskla Poltava.
Quickly finding his feet in his new senior role, the Nigerian descendant has become a key figure for Arsenal, having scored three goals and providing nine assists in all competitions this season. Reminiscing on his humble beginnings to his journey to stardom, the Gunners lad showered his Nigerian parents for their full support.
“To be honest it all really started a long time before that. From the age of three or four I would be playing football at home in the garden with my dad, and my elder brother, Yomi,” he told the club website.
“I just enjoyed playing, but I don’t think I ever really thought I was going to make it to the first team until I actually signed my first professional contract when I turned 17. You go through the youth teams, year by year, and you see all these great players around you – some of them could be the best in the year – and slowly they are all let go, to other clubs or even stopping completely. So you could never be sure that you would make it, but what I said to myself is that I would always give my best in every single session. I always wanted to learn to get better, I always watched a lot of football to see how I could improve” Saka said.
“But we had a big group at Hale End, and even though we had so many quality players, the coaches would always say, Look around the dressing room, only maybe one or possibly two of you will make it to the first team one day. We would look at each other and wonder who it would be. I was always determined for it to be me, and so I wanted to do whatever it took to achieve that. My mum and dad always encouraged me. They never stopped me from playing football, they just wanted to see a balance and that I was also interested in my education” Saka added.
Bukayo, who is apart of the England U19 squad is also eligible to play for the Nigerian Super Eagles. In an interview back in December the winger admitted he is yet to decide on his international future but has admitted visiting Nigeria often with his parents.
“I was lucky enough to travel a lot when I was younger as well. Every year my mum and dad would take us away. We went to Nigeria of course, where my mum and dad are both from, we went to Dubai, and to America a few times because my cousins live there. I remember going to Chicago and LA, and a few other places too” Saka said.
Mikel Arteta is expected to use Saka as one of his key men when Arsenal take on Olympiakos in the second leg of their Europa League Round of 32 on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Arsenal is reportedly scared of losing academy graduate Bukayo Saka to Premier League rivals if they fail to qualify for any UEFA competitions next season. The 18-year-old has attracted interest from Manchester United and Liverpool due to his superb performances for Arsenal this campaign.
And according to The Times, the player and his agents are stalling on negotiations for a new deal with Arsenal facing the prospect of not competing in the UEFA Champions League or Europa League. The report added that Saka wants to continue his development by playing against Europe’s biggest clubs.
The 18-year-old has the most assist by any Arsenal player or any other Premier League teenager this season, despite being played out of position at left-back. It was his cross to Alexander Lacazette that gave Arsenal a 1-0 win over Olympiakos in the Europa League on Thursday.