Not many at the Estadio de la Ceramica will remember the 2018/19 season all that fondly.
Indeed, Villarreal finished a long way from where they would have targeted before the start of the campaign, only just keeping themselves away from the scrap at the foot of the table by finishing in 14th place with just 10 wins from their 38 games.
On top of this, the Yellow Submarine changed managers and were knocked out of the Europa League at the quarter-final stage by rivals Valencia. There was, however, one highlight and that came in the form of Samuel Chukwueze, the Nigerian who emerged as one of the most exciting young talents in La Liga last season.
This week saw Chukwueze sign a new contract with Villarreal which will keep him at the club for the next three years. However, the attacker’s new deal reportedly includes a €100m release clause which will drop to €80m in the final year. Right now, that might seem a hefty price, but it might not be long until that it starts to represent a bargain.
Chukwueze is an explosive attacking force, often starting out wide before driving into the middle where he causes most damage. The 20-year-old possesses lightning speed and the quality of unpredictability. The Nigerian was particularly impressive in a game against Barcelona last season during which his footwork dazed Samuel Umtiti, twisting the French defender inside out. Chukwueze netted a goal and contributed an assist that night against the eventual champions.
Villarreal teammate Alberto Moreno has claimed that Chukwueze reminds him of Sadio Mane having played alongside the Senegalese star during his time at Liverpool. Parallels can indeed be drawn between the Villarreal youngster and Mane. Others have also compared him to Arjen Robben. Both players are wingers in terms of their starting position but offer so much more than the orthodox wide operator.
Liverpool have been linked with a move for Chukwueze. The Premier League would appear to be a good fit for the Nigerian, with so many wide forwards thriving in the English top-flight at this particular moment. There are still some raw elements to Chukwueze’s game, but his natural talent and drive make him an appealing proposition for most elite sides.
The €100m price tag slapped on Chukwueze’s head by Villarreal might be enough to put off suitors for the time being, but should the Nigerian continue on his upward trajectory of the past year or so there will be several interested parties willing to pay that much for a player of such shimmering potential.