COMMENT By Solace Chukwu Follow on Twitter
With Villarreal sinking deeper into the muck of at the foot of the Spanish table, it may come to be that Javi Calleja's great legacy is the launching of Samuel Chukwueze.
These are overcast, gloomy days for the Yellow Submarine, adrift like some ghastly relic. Two wins from 11, no wins at home—the prognosis is decidedly grim for Calleja, who has perhaps only lasted this long due to his playing connection with the club.
Chukwueze, however, has been the streak of silver in the drabness, and while it may be too much to ask for a 19-year-old in his first top-flight season to make the difference, he is already demonstrating interesting potential.
So much so, in fact, that his handful of appearances so far have caught the eye of Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr.
It is easy to see why.
For one thing, the German has made no secret of his desire to reduce the average age of the national team. At the World Cup in the summer, Nigeria named the youngest squad in the competition.
While the team was unable to progress beyond the group stage, it opened up a whole new world of opportunity, and solidified the idea of a building process.
There is also a greater need for dynamism and forward thrust in wide areas in the team.
The retirement of Victor Moses, abrupt as it was, may well have been a blessing for the side; no longer able to call upon the Chelsea man for moments of flair while the rest of the team keeps a solid shape, Rohr seems keener to play on the front foot and explore a wider range of attacking movements and patterns.
This has seen Samuel Kalu come into the fold, even though his deployment and decision-making so far have been somewhat muddled.
He offers pace on the outside, as well as an interesting delivery into the box.
Chukwueze is a continuation of this speculative theme, and could flip the script almost completely due to the uniqueness of his skillset.
A left-footed forward who plays on the right, cutting in to shoot or dribbling diagonally toward goal: now there is the sort of weapon the Super Eagles have never had!
With his lightning speed and strength, there is the very real prospect that the former under-17 international could totally break the matrix, and redefine entirely how the national team attacks and transitions.
Typically, the focus has been on quickly forming two solid banks of four without the ball, but he offers the option of retaining threat in forward areas with which to break quickly.
He could allow the team field three proper forwards at the same time, transitioning to a 4-3-3 from the usual 4-2-3-1 set-up: Chukwueze, Ahmed Musa (Henry Onyekuru waiting in line) and Odion Ighalo -- or perhaps Isaac Success, in the long run -- would be a terrifying trio upfront for any team to face, and has the potential to keep any defence honest.
With all three dovetailing and popping up all over the frontline, all capable of being the nominal focal point per play, and all possessing tremendous speed, the possibilities suddenly seem endless.
With the South Africa game being as crucial as it is, it may be too much to expect Chukwueze to be thrown into the fray right away. However, his particular set of skills should be on show in the friendly against Uganda, and we will afforded a clearer view of what Rohr's conception of him is.
If he continues to get minutes at Villarreal, he may well be the Super Eagles' biggest wildcard going into next year's Africa Cup of Nations.