Transfer Talk: West Ham rivalling Real Madrid for Chukwueze
Samuel Chukwueze will be hot property in this summer's transfer market.
The Nigeria star, 24, enjoyed a superb season with Villarreal, helping the club finish fifth in LaLiga and qualify for next season's Europa League.
But keeping one of their prized assets — whose current deal expires in 2024 — will still be extremely difficult for the Yellow Submarine.
We shine the spotlight on one of the most exciting wingers in European football and see what the future might hold for him.
Sam's super season
Chukwueze finished the season as Villarreal's most efficient attacking player, registering 13 goals and 11 assists from 50 appearances in all competitions.
On top of his impressive output, the No11 was lethal in one-on-one situations throughout the campaign.
Among players in Europe's top five leagues, only Vinicius Junior, Lionel Messi, Jeremy Doku and Lee Kang-In completed more take-ons than the African sensation (86).
And midfield metronome Dani Parejo was the sole player in Villarreal's squad to create more chances than Chukwueze (44).
In terms of out-and-out wingers, the 27-cap international is up there with the most complete operating in Europe — and that is why he is attracting interest from across the continent.
Premier League adventure
Numerous clubs in the English top flight are thought to be keen on acquiring the Yellow Submarine maestro, with Europa Conference League finalists West Ham firmly in the race.
David Moyes' side are a little short of wide attackers, particularly on the right — where Jarrod Bowen is the only real quality option.
In a boost to the Hammers, Villarreal boss Quique Setien hinted that Chukwueze may be set to exit.
After the 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid last Sunday, the Spanish coach said: "I think of them as people, [Nicolas] Jackson has helped us a lot and has been a decisive player in this final stretch of the season.
"They will have to decide on their future, but we do not hide that they can leave. The same with Samu and with anyone."
The Real deal
But West Ham will reportedly have competition in the race for Chukwueze in the form of Real Madrid.
Los Blancos are eager to strengthen their attack this summer after the departures of Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz.
Real's interest in the forward likely stems from his outstanding display at the Bernabeu back in April.
He scored two stunning goals in a 3-2 win for his side, the second a long-range effort which left Thibaut Courtois completely helpless between the posts.
Getting to stay in Spain and play for a club which is far larger in stature than Villarreal may ultimately prove too tempting for the Nigerian flyer.
One more season
Of course, there is the small chance Chukwueze will remain on the Yellow Submarine's books past this summer.
In a recent interview, the tricky winger said in response to rumours about an exit: "That's just noise. My dream is to play again in Europe with Villarreal.
"The Roig family have been very good to me. They are like my family."
However, he also stated that he wishes to "leave good money in the club", which will not be possible next year unless a contract extension is signed.
Agreeing a new deal at La Ceramica would see the Nigerian's value skyrocket — and clubs may be willing to cough up the cash if his performance levels do not drop in 2023-24.