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How USMNT goal machine Dike went from playing Mario Kart to facing Kante

9:14 pm AEST 23/4/21
Daryl Dike Barnsley N'Golo Kante Chelsea GFX
The on-loan Barnsley striker wasn't even playing professional football 16 months ago but now he is attracting interest from Premier League scouts

Daryl Dike is the name on everyone's lips in the Championship.

The 20-year-old has been a revelation since joining Barnsley on loan from Orlando City, with the Yorkshire club now hoping to take advantage of their option to buy the forward at the end of the season on a permanent basis.

However, the Tykes are acutely aware that after six goals in seven games, the United States international has caught the attention of several Premier League scouts in recent weeks.

It is remarkable to think, then, that Dike wasn't even playing for a professional team 16 months ago.

While studying finance at the University of Virginia, Dike lined out for the Virginia Cavaliers. However, after being drafted by Major League Soccer outfit Orlando City in 2020, he is suddenly the most talked-about attacker in the Championship.

"Everything has gone in the blink of an eye," Dike told Goal. "If you told me two or three years ago that I would be where I am today, that I would have a national team cap, that I would play for Orlando and Barnsley, I would have laughed at you.

"I would have been like, 'There's just no way!' But it's great. My career is going well. I can feel myself growing as a player. In a short time, my life has completely changed. I feel truly blessed.

"I am super-happy but, at the same time, I know I am not yet where I want to be. I want to continue scaling new heights. So, I know my life and career, and everything around me, will continue to change."

Dike's meteoric rise perhaps shouldn't have come as such a surprise, given his family's impressive sporting pedigree. 

His cousin, ex-West Ham forward Emmanuel Emenike, previously played for Nigeria, along with Dike's brother, Bright, who made two appearances for the Super Eagles. 

Meanwhile, Dike's sister, Courtney, has also represented Nigeria at senior level, after winning a silver medal at the 2014 Under-20 Women's World Cup. 

It won't come as a surprise to learn, then, that Dike's parents, who emigrated to the United States before they were born, played a key role in their children's sporting success.

Indeed, Bright jokes, "Whether it is my game or Daryl's game, if you hear a woman screaming behind the goal, then it is always our mum! Everyone in our family is happy all the time and pushing each other to the next level."

Indeed, Daryl says sibling rivalry nurtured his will to win.

"That's one thing about our family: everyone is so competitive," Daryl, the youngest of the five Dike children, reveals. "No one likes to lose but I am sure they got used to it when we used to play Mario Party, Nintendo games and stuff like that!

"We actually didn't play that many sports at home. It was mostly in school or with our teams. But we still wanted to compete somehow, so what better way than Nintendo and cards?!"

Bright nearly moved to the United Kingdom himself, long before Daryl joined Barnsley in February. 

Indeed, back in 2014, Bright was attracting interest from then-Premier League clubs Hull City and QPR, as well as Scottish giants Celtic and Rangers. 

However, he suffered a serious knee injury in February of that year which not only scuppered his hopes of a transfer, but also cost him a place in Nigeria's World Cup squad for Brazil. 

The whole Dike family is now hoping that Daryl avoids similar misfortune in his fledgling career. Things certainly couldn't be going much better at the moment. 

As a childhood Chelsea fan who idolised Didier Drogba, Dike couldn't believe that he got the chance to make his debut against the Blues in an FA Cup fifth-round clash at Oakwell on February 11. 

"After only seeing these guys on TV, I was like, 'Wow! I am warming up next to [Olivier] Giroud!' he enthuses. "I thought I would only see him on TV and now I am playing next to [N'Golo] Kante and competing for a header with [Kurt] Zouma.

"I was doing these things and, honestly, it was a dream come true. I am a Chelsea fan and I loved Drogba when I was younger. Me and him play a kind of similar game. I enjoyed watching him.

"So, [playing against Chelsea] was crazy, particularly after such a short space of time. It was a blessing for me and a big experience."

The focus now, though, is on trying to help sixth-placed Barnsley secure promotion to the Premier League. 

"I think the team can do it," he says. "We are doing really well and we have the necessary tools but we need to keep going.

"The season is not over, we still have a lot of work to do but it has been a crazy experience for me, to say the least. I can't even think about how much it impacted me and how crazy it is for my entire life."

Indeed, at the rate he's going, Dike might soon be the name on everyone's lips in the Premier League.