The news earlier this week that Arsenal youngster Kelechi Nwakali had joined Porto B on loan until the end of the season, with the Portuguese giants having an option to make the deal permanent in 12 months’ time came as a bit of a shock.
Being loaned out was not the surprise. He is still just 20-years-old and my understanding is that he is still unable to get a work permit for the UK.
With the development of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and the signing of 19-year-old Mattéo Guendouzi always meant that is was unlikely that Nwakali was going to be part of the first team squad.
What was surprising was that Porto have an option to make the deal permanent in 12 months’ time. This highlights that Arsenal do not believe he has a future at the club.
A key reason for this will be the development of Maitland-Niles and the signing of Guendouzi. The club clearly see too similar aged players as ahead of Nwakali in the pecking order.
What the story of Nwakali does is highlight once more how hard it is to go from talented youth team player to established senior professional.
Nigerian midfielder Nwakali, arrived in north London to much fanfare in 2016 having been identified by the Gunners’ as one of the star players in the Super Eagles’ Under-17 World Cup winning side of the previous year.
In the 2015 U-17 World Cup he was named captain as he led his country to the title, winning the Golden Ball Award along the way.
However Nwakali struggled to make a major impact either in the youth setup or out on loan, where he spent time with Dutch clubs VVV-Venlo and MVV Maastricht last season.
Arsenal signed Nwakali to a 5-year deal back in 2016, of which he still has 3 years remaining. The likelihood is the deal that would make the move to Porto permanent would be for a very low transfer fee with a first option to buy and a huge signing on fee.
Nwakali will just be one more player to add to a list of thousands who were talented at 16, but struggled to break through at the highest level.