By David Meshioye
Touted as the next big thing in Nigerian football given his sublime skills and ability to dig deeply into his technical books of tricks and come up with a one-man against the world display in difficult situations, Villareal winger, Samuel Chukwueze is currently going through a dip in form.
The once dreaded youngster has not been the same ever since he cropped up an injury in the 2021 Europa Cup semi-final clash against Arsenal.
He was a subject of transfer speculations last season after top clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal, and other top European clubs showed their intention to sign the Super Eagles winger.
But these rumours have since turned to dust after the player suffered a blip in the form at the beginning of the season.
What Chukwueze told Eguavoen
On the eve of Nigeria's AFCON 2021 group opener against The Pharaohs of Egypt, Super Eagles manager, Austin Eguavoen in his usual style asked Chukwueze his preferred position.
The Villarreal star opted to operate from the right flanks while Simon Moses was okay with the left-wing.
" In my usual style, I asked each player their preferred position before our first game against Egypt, and Chukwueze told me he would like to operate from the right flank while Simon opted for the left flank," Eguavoen said.
While Moses Simon emerged AFCON best 11 for the group stage given his sterling performance against Egypt, Sudan, and Guinea Bissau respectively, Chukwueze was lost in the crowd, he ran out of gas, and his impact was not felt by teammates.
He was a shadow of his former self, as he struggled to put his passes together.
It was Nigeria versus Tunisia clash that finally exposed Chukwueze's flaws. He was completely marked out of the game and he failed to deliver a single supply to the Iheanacho and Awoniyi.
While angry fans singled out Maduka Okoye and Alex Iwobi for Nigeria's ouster from AFCON, critics seem to have been blindfolded from seeing Chukwueze errors.
He contributed absolutely nothing to the Super Eagles campaign at the Africa Cup of Nations because he was not mentally ready for the competition after his speedy return from injuries, and Nigeria paid dearly for it.
World Cup Playoffs A Different Kettle of Fish
While Nigeria continues to lick its wounds after being bundled out AFCON in the second round, the upcoming Qatar 2022 World Cup playoffs is a different kettle of fish, and Super Eagles can only have one leg in Qatar if Eguavoen invites players based on current form and not just names.
Chukwueze is a promising player, on a good day in the office, opponents will nod their heads with envy, but he seems to have lost those sparks that made him the most wanted youth prodigy in the world.
Eguavoen should allow the young man to gradually regain that form by leaving him out of a national assignment for now while he focuses on club football. Then he can return with a breath of fresh air.