There are various interesting sub-plots to the game between Atalanta and AC Milan on Saturday, but one that stands out is the duel between Ademola Lookman and Samuel Chukwueze.
As La Gazzetta dello Sport writes, the two Nigeria internationals are getting ready to tackle the Africa Cup of Nations at the start of the new year but for a few hours on Saturday evening they will become enemies on the field.
For Lookman and Chukwueze the evening in Bergamo will be a special one. Both make dribbling and speed a strong point, both come from a period of ups and downs and are looking for the right leap to turn their season around.
Chukwueze, who arrived at Milan in the summer with the most expensive signing on the market, tried a few days ago. Against Borussia Dortmund he scored his first goal in trademark style, dribbling in off the right and finishing, and that came after several unconvincing performances.
Lookman, who arrived in Serie A in the summer of 2022, enjoyed a record-breaking first year and the new start was a little slower, with four goals and twi assists in 19 appearances this season. The starting point for both is last season, an inevitable term of comparison between numbers and statistics.
Samuel comes from a golden year with Villarreal. In 50 appearances for the Spaniards he amassed 13 goals and 11 assists, with a successful dribbling percentage of 50.2%. Ademola, on the other hand, was a revelation, with 15 goals and eight assists in 33 matches across all competitions.
A common point between the careers of the two is the childhood lived in poverty, combined with the importance of their respective mothers in their individual paths. In an interview with Goal, Chukwueze said: “I liked playing since I was little, but she always tried to stop me from doing so. She forced me to stay at home and concentrate on my studies.”
The opportunity came some time later: “A friend explained to me that there was a selection to participate in a tournament in Portugal, but I said no because they wouldn’t allow me. He came home at 6 in the morning, my mother opened the door door and came to wake me up. I told her I wasn’t going, but she was the one who asked me to take my shoes and leave the house.”
For Lookman, things went differently right from the start: “I’m like this thanks to my mother, she taught me what the word sacrifice means. She went to work and I stayed at home with my older sister, but when she came back she never made us feel bad about it.”
The other connection is of course José Peseiro’s Nigerian national team, who ready to leave for the Africa Cup of Nations scheduled for January and February in the Ivory Coast. Nigeria are one of the favourites because of their star power.
Coach Peseiro himself spoke about both players during an interview with Sportitalia recently: “Lookman? He’s in a great moment, which I hope he maintains until the end in order to do even better than last season.”
On Chukwueze, he added:: “He is a young player with enormous talent, who is making his way. He is adapting to a club of this size and therefore we know that, with work, consistency and time, it will conquer its space and achieve the success we all hope for.”