Crystal Palace midfielder Eberechi Eze has reflected on his journey to stardom, including how he was released by Premier League giants Arsenal at the age of 13.
The midfielder was born in Greenwich to Nigerian parents and started developing his talent in football at a young age, playing for a number of clubs and age-grade competitions.
Eze then got an opportunity to kick-start his football career with Arsenal but only spent a short time with the side before he was released.
The disappointment of his release by the Emirates Stadium outfit overwhelmed him as he cried for days along with his mother.
The midfielder got a respite when he got another opportunity with Fulham to relaunch his career and grabbed the chance with both hands.
Eze also spent time with Reading and Millwall before he signed for Queens Park Rangers’ youth setup in 2014.
The midfielder was promoted to the first team in 2016 and went on to make 104 league appearances for QPR, bagging 20 goals, amid other dazzling displays.
Eze’s eye-catching performances soon caught the attention of a number of Premier League clubs last season before settling for Crystal Palace in the summer.
The midfielder wasted no time to adapt to the English top-flight and soon became a consistent performer for the Selhurst Park outfit.
Eze has now made 14 appearances for Palace across all competitions and in November, he was named the club’s Player of the Month.
The 22-year-old versatile midfielder revealed his previous struggles in life has helped him develop into a better player.
"It wasn’t the easiest but we knew we wanted to enjoy life as much as we can and that we didn’t want to be in the position we were in. So it was important we worked hard and did everything we could to give ourselves the best chance we could,” Eze told Premier League Productions.
"Me and my brothers played [football] at every opportunity we could with our friends and neighbours around the area. I think that’s the first proper look at football we all got; we wanted to play football to enjoy it.
"There was never any pressure, anything, just the idea of going out to play with our friends. The longer I held on to that, the easier it was for me to be at clubs and still try to have that mentality.
"I got scouted by a few clubs and that’s when I first went to Arsenal. At a young age, it was hard, especially being released. Me and my mum cried, everyone was so upset – that’s all you know at that age.
"But looking back at it now, that’s the start of my journey and I’m grateful to God that’s how it went. If it wasn’t for that, I may not have got the resilience, bravery, to go and be who I want to be elsewhere. It’s shaped me to be who I am today.
"I was coming to terms with how difficult it was going to be. That’s what it was for me, realising this is going to be a lot harder than I may have thought, getting a pro contract somewhere and becoming what I want to become. I knew that was a bit further than I once thought."
Eze will be expected to feature for Crystal Palace when they take on Aston Villa in a Premier League game on Boxing Day.