The Aston Villa midfielder was described as ‘the best 16-year-old footballer in England’ by the club’s CEO Christian Purslow in 2020 and has since become a Premier League star
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Arsenal and Barcelona are both interested in signing Aston Villa midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka, according to reports.
The 18-year-old is an England U19 international – winning eight caps to date – and was part of the Villa team that won the FA Youth Cup in 2020-21. He’s played 19 senior games to date, 11 of which have come in the Premier League this season.
Chukwuemeka, who joined Villa’s academy from Northampton Town in 2016, is eligible to play for England, Austria and Nigeria at international level and was described as ‘the best 16-year-old footballer in England’ by Villa CEO Christian Purslow in March 2020.
As reported by Spanish outlet SPORT, Barcelona sporting advisor Jordi Cruyff and football director Mateu Alemany met with Chukwuemeka’s representatives on Tuesday to discuss a potential transfer. These were thought to be just initial talks.
The Gunners are also believed to be keen on signing Chukwuemeka but much will depend on extension talks with Villa. He has just 13 months left on his existing deal and Steven Gerrard’s side want to tie him down to a new long-term contract.
Villa have made a number of big-name signings since Gerrard was appointed manager in November – including Lucas Digne, Philippe Coutinho, Boubacar Kamara and Diego Carlos. They are looking to strengthen their squad and will not want to lose Chukwuemeka.
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Chukwuemeka has received plenty of flattering reviews during his blossoming career. “Chukwuemeka was very good,” said Arsenal legend Paul Merson following Villa’s 1-1 Premier League draw against Brentford in August – a game the youngster started.
“He has got a bright future. I do not see a lot of the kid’s football. First-half, he was outstanding. He was gliding across the pitch. 17-years-old, you are playing in the Premier League in the center of midfield. I mean that’s a big ask. He will be an absolute start.
“He glides across the pitch. He is a nice size. He gets on the ball. He looks for it and makes runs without the ball. I think Villa fans going away will definitely be talking about him.”
Speaking in March 2020, Purslow explained: “Frankly, I’m going to be brutal, 22-year-olds playing in an under-23 team means your system is not working. It means your system has failed because 22-year- old footballers at Aston Villa need to be in the first team.
“The ultimate goal is to populate the under-23 team with 11 outstanding 16, 17 and 18-year-olds, then I will know it’s working. And that will take years, not months. We need to be higher in recruiting the best eight-year-old, nine-year-old, 10-year-old, 11-year-old, 12-year-old, 14, 16, one a year that makes it and gets a professional contract at 16.
“I want that player. We have one right now, probably the best 16-year-old in England, Carney [Chukwuemeka]. Absolutely no debate, he’s starting for the U23s. That’s what you want with your 16-year-olds. “People who are not quite breaking into the first team, but staying around on contracts because it is not quite happening.”