Explosive talent meets turbulent beginning: Chukwueze’s Milan story yet to be written

By Oliver Fisher -

One could make a solid argument in saying that Samuel Chukwueze was the most exciting signing of the summer transfer window, but the AC Milan management have been left hoping the best is yet to come.

Chukwueze was one of the longest negotiations that Geoffrey Moncada and co. were subjected to during the mercato but they eventually got the operation over the line, agreeing a deal with Villarreal worth €20m plus €8m in bonuses as per widespread reports.

The fact that Chukwueze signed a contract until June 2028 shows that Moncada saw in him player who can contribute not only straight away but also years into the future; an talent, capable of making a difference with his speed, his technique and his creativity.

Based on the evidence seen both in LaLiga and in the Champions League with Villarreal – in which he even played in the semi-finals against Liverpool in 2022 – the Milan director had plenty of reason to have faith in his convictions too.

Humble beginnings

Chukwueze began his career at the Diamond Football Academy, Nigeria, where he showcased his skills playing mostly out wide. A lot of European clubs have scouts watching such academies, and this would work to his benefit.

In 2017 he was purchased by Villarreal, who developed him in their youth team and launched him into the first team in the 2018-19 season, which was perhaps a bit ahead of schedule and a testament to his growth.

From then, Chukwueze would go on to make 207 appearances and 37 goals for the Valencian club, also winning the Europa League in the 2020-21 season and scoring many important goals.

Uniqueness and unpredictability

Chukwueze is a left-footed right winger, who loves to start wide and cut into the centre to look for a shot or pass. He can also play on the left side if needed or as a second striker, taking advantage of his flexibility and his ability to adapt to different roles and schemes.

He is an unpredictable player, who knows how to beat his man on the dribble and create situations of great danger, but on the counter-attack and against closed defences where speed and quality can unpick the lock.

Samuel is regarded as having good vision and also shooting ability, both from a standing start and on the run. Furthermore, he has a strong personality and determination, something that comes from his beginnings and which makes him a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room.

Anonymous start

However, these are all qualities which Chukwueze has not had the opportunity to show at Milan for a couple of different reasons, even though it is early in the campaign.

The first factor is that Christian Pulisic immediately took ownership of the right wing position by virtue of arriving sooner, thus having longer to integrate and show his capabilities to Stefano Pioli.

The other thing that worked against Chukwueze was the calf injury he suffered while on international duty with Nigeria which forced him to miss some important games. However, he returned faster the expected which shows his desire to be useful to the cause.

Despite his flexibility and unique ability to beat a man with ease – something that has drawn comparisons with how Rafael Leao plays on the other wing – Chukwueze has thus far appeared a tad out of place and not very involved.

His team-mates would often channel attacks to the left and when ‘Chuku’ did get the ball that left him perhaps trying too hard to do something of note rather than picking the best option.

Identity to be rediscovered

Chukwueze is not just a talent to be nurtured but a profile that already has international experience, having debuted in 2018 at just 19 years old with his national team and subsequently participating in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, where he he scored a goal and earned the award as the best young player of the tournament.

His growth was then confirmed with Villarreal where he was the player with the highest percentage of successful dribbles in the last five seasons behind only two of the world’s best wingers in Vinicius Jr. and Lionel Messi.

His first year at Milan has so far been disappointing with just 288 minutes played under the guidance of Pioli, who on more than one occasion preferred the experience of Pulisic. The injury Chukwueze suffered in October ruled him out for nearly three weeks in a period where he might otherwise have had some starts.

He came back and made a start against Lecce during the 2-2 draw before the international break, playing 79 minutes and getting his first assist with his new club too.

The underestimated contribution

The disappointing result against Lecce obviously overshadows the performance of Chukwueze – as well as the whole team – but the 24-year-old’s spark at Milan was seen perhaps for the first time.

His intuition allowed Tijjani Reijnders to score the goal which made it 2-0, as he played a very difficult through pass to find the Dutchman’s run, overcoming the second line of pressing from the hosts in the process.

Chukwueze’s first season at Milan certainly cannot be said to be redeemed by the assist provided against Lecce but it could represent the first stone on which the Nigerian will be able to base his destiny at the Rossoneri, the first happy note in a story yet to be written.

Tags AC Milan Samuel Chukwueze


  1. I said he is not worth 35mil but anyway, 35 mil or not if Pioli keeps limiting his playing time nothing would change in his form. He would turn in another wasted investment.

  2. I’ve looked at his highlight reel again, just to garner some hope he can find form. Funny thing is he looked exactly the same with Villareal.
    Trying to dribble impossible situations (just getting the lucky bounce in la liga) against much weaker defenses.
    The most 1 footed player I have ever seen, e.v.e.r.

    Scores the odd goal, when his shots don’t hit the top tier.

    He is not a young kid with potential, he is an experienced pro in his prime.
    6 goals in la liga as a forward is a terrible return.

    Everyone jumped on the Moncada band waggon, well this signing shows he either didn’t watch the player or he doesn’t know what he’s looking at, neither are good.

    Given his style of play and his age and what I have seen from his time in Italy and Spain, I have no reason to think he will improve.

    Okafor is the complete opposite, he has a future if he is given a chance

  3. @SJF: I think so far, we have to admit that we’ve been had in the Chukuweze situation. But who knows, maybe with time and/or a different coach he can improve.

  4. In God’s name, would it not have been better to sign Zaniolo, or even takem Adama Traore for free, I have a feeling he is not going to work…

  5. Where are the Chukuweze apologists now? Still just saying he needs more playing time, and we should bench Pulisic , one of our best players to give Chuku more time? Pulisic has been great on the RW , not even his natural position and often using his weak foot to pass and shoot. Imagine Chuku using his weak foot for anything… No room for one footed players anymore.

  6. Rossi if you are referring to chukwueze then he was bought for 20 mil and with bonuses possibly extending to a max of +8 mil paid at a later date which would then make the full price reach 28 mil euros, no transfers this summer exceeds the 20 mil mark at least in regard of the base price. Thats the modus operandi of ac milan in the summer of 2023.

  7. He looks to be a 28M bust. He should be a ready-made player having played in Spain and not a weak league like Belgium. The agreement that all he needs is playing time and it’s Pioli’s fault is weak at best. IF he cannot beat Pulisic out in training what is he good for??? I’m no Pioli supporter BUT coaches make decisions based on training and if Chuk cannot outshine Pulisic in training that says a lot. Also him NOT showing up in shape didn’t help him either. Pulisic had no issue contributing right away and neither should have Chuk. The rest is just excuses IMO. He has to put up or shut up. I wonder if he is a bust of the Maldini haters will give the same hate towards Georgio like they did with CDK (who if reports are true EPL teams may want)?? LOL. We shall see.

  8. He has not been good. Neither was van Basten his 1st year here.

    Since he is on a slight upward trajectory, hoping he can break through before the end of the calendar year.

  9. @SJF “Scores the odd goal, when his shots don’t hit the top tier.

    He is not a young kid with potential, he is an experienced pro in his prime.
    6 goals in la liga as a forward is a terrible return.”

    Lol bro stop hating. He was part of the summer revolution where we amassed the Avengers of football in Milan to become the best in a decade lol.
    About that goal return I remember in the summer mentioning it was exactly the same as Messiah’s smh. Also his position has too many players there already, both him and Romero. Would have been better to keep either of Saele or Messias instead and spend the money on a DM

  10. Martin i was reffering to people here saying in the summer that he was worth 35mil (Villareal original asking price) cause he apperently was the next big thing on RW. I never thought that he is so good despite the hype. However i dont think he is a very bad player either and he can still contribute a lot if he gets in form.

  11. Explosive talent not anymore. He’s 24 so he should be well established player by now. If that’s it then this acquisition is no different than CdK with 28 millions wasted. Watching Chuk play he doesn’t excite me, he’s a one trick pony always going for same ol’ trick, forcing dribbles. He has no vision whatsoever. Okafor for 15 millions is miles better than him. a real bargain deal of our summer mercato.

  12. It’s sad the way so called “fans” on this site or wherever, write off or turn their backs on the team’s players. Especially after a rough start to their Milan journey or a rough patch of poor form (including the older players). It’s especially worse for player(s) they never wanted or liked (a certain Bosnian comes to mind).

    AC MILAN is like another “family” to us (that is if you truly love the club). And in football, and life in general, you support/protect your own. You can constructively criticize and proffer solutions (if there are any) but most importantly, YOU SUPPORT. Not write them off as failures or wanting them to fail so you can justifiably say “I told you so.”

    They are humans like us after all. We’ve had it rough at various times in our lives. I’m dead sure we would have liked some sort of support instead of being written off or given up on.

    We need to do better.

    Whoever dons the Red & Black is family. And family protects its own.

  13. Absolutely agreed.

    I honestly don’t linger around fans site much, but covid did provide some kind of extra time and thus I began spending my time here. I usually don’t mind much of the opposing views here and there, but the fact that some continues to slander some (if not all) of the players who wore/STILL wears the jersey made me wonder whether I’m getting too old for this.

    Not to mention the usual cycle of

    Players linked with us – hype – players got signed – huge uproar – players then underperformed – I told you so, etc etc. – Calling for their heads even before Christmas. Sigh.

    Why most seem to deem that every players have to adjust immediately or he’s a bust? This generations seem to want things to be instantly clicked, instantly available, instantly better than the last. Such a pity.

  14. I don’t see any reasons why he should start play better. BTW does anyone remember world class Nigerian winger??Looking on his playing let Messias went away was a huge mistake

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