At GSV, we take the self allotted duty of enlightening our readers on all matters sports related very seriously, especially when it comes to informing the fraternity as a whole about the stars of the future that are on the rise as well as those that are already making a splash in the Beautiful Game at a tender young age; we are proud to present to you, the GSV Hot List, the most authoritative young African talent index in the entire football realm. The GSV Hot List is our selection of the best u/23 footballers in their positions, ranking the lads against their competitors and giving you some information on the player; we aim to ensure that you remain entertained, informed and enlightened while growing your knowledge base on the stars of the future.
DoB: June 5th, 1998 (17)
PoB: Owerri, Imo State; Nigeria
Caps & Goals: N/A (Nigeria u-17 International)
Position/s: Attacking Midfielder, Advanced Playmaker, Trequartista
Preferred Foot: Either
Development Academy: Academy of Saint Joseph (ASJ Academy, Owerri)
GSV Potential Indicator: Augustine “Jay-Jay” Okocha (5/5)
The Talent Scout Report:
For nearly a decade, football fans across Mama Africa have pondered if they will see another elite level attacking Nigerian superstar in the ilk of the Ikeba’s, Emenike’s, Okocha’s and Kanu’s that came before them, and still linger long in the minds of football purists worldwide for their exploits on the green.
That wondering seems to have festered itself into improved scouting and development across Nigerian football over the past few years, and the results are being witnessed through the increased level of Nigerian bred talent doing well in elite divisions all around Europe; yet the true sign of growth lies within the rate at which Nigeria are churning out young talents that are ready to go on and fulfil their potential at the highest level, instead of going off the boil before they reach their mid twenties like a few have done in the recent past.
One can name on one hand the talented young lads that have been tipped as “The Next Jay-Jay Okocha” and failed to live up to that billing, yet Nigeria can now boast two worthy heirs to a role that has been truly vacant since The Magician hung up his magical boots. Of the two Kelechi’s on the rise, Nwakali seems destined to eventually develop into a genuine No: 10 at the elite level; while Iheanacho is more of an advanced forward that can play in the hole and look to score more than he creates, Nwakali is a natural trequartista with the dexterity to develop into a well-oiled chance creating machine for club and country.
Following in the footsteps of Iheanacho seemed like destiny for Nwakali, as he matched Kelechi, and his older brother Chidibere, by leading The Golden Eaglets to victory in the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, defending the crown Iheanacho had guided Nigeria to only two years prior. Wearing the same jersey and taking over the armband from Iheanacho, one could have been forgiven for thinking that Nigeria had now established a top secret factory that churns out replica No: 10’s; yet Nwakali quickly showed that he was his own man, as he dictated the orchestra in an attacking symphony that was irresistible to watch at times. The attacking midfielder saw his stock rise with every majestic performance and it came as no surprise when he was rumoured to be following in Iheanacho’s footsteps by signing a pre-contract with City, yet a reported asking price of £ 4m was said to have put City off signing the player until they’d done their due diligence in scouting him thoroughly before sanctioning a deal.
A gifted distributor of the ball with a Xavi-like maturity to his game, Nwakali has begun to attract more interest as he nears the age of 18, when he can sign a professional contract with any club that can agree compensation for his services with a view of him moving to Europe in June of next year; sound technique and accurate delivery from set-pieces all add to the playmakers goal threat, and increase his value in an ever-evolving game that requires goals from all on-field sources, Kelechi is a hot commodity for a reason. Nwakali seems primed to develop into one of the most technically gifted footballers of his generation, a winner of the adidas Golden Boot and Bronze Shoe awards at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, with 3 goals and 3 assists, there is no doubting the fact that the wunderkind possesses incredible raw ability and bags of potential to make for one highly touted prospect for the future.
Some footballers are taught how to play football, while others are born with the natural abilities to excel in the game; Kelechi Nwakali is a natural born footballer that lives football, and the 10 000 hours he has invested into his craft will put him in great stead as he aims to fulfil his potential and become the elite level global superstar he showed glimpses of being in Chile. The next 24 months are pivotal in his development, the youngster needs to sign for a club that will further develop him holistically, while affording him the opportunities to play competitive football regularly at a good level; yet the biggest challenge could lie in whether he beats the unbecoming trend in Nigerian football and successfully elevates up the ranks and establish himself as an u/20 International before hoping to make the grade as a Super Eagle in the future. The drive and humility of the youngster was epitomised in his handing over of the captains armband to a young supporter in the crowd after the final in Chile, that gesture showed his impressive level of maturity and respect for all that comes with being a footballer; his technical gifts are evident and very much astounding, yet his class differentiates Kelechi Nwakali from the rest.