Incredible journey of Arsenal star Bukayo Saka from a skinny boy to a shining star in the world football sky

That journey began when Saka was only nine years old. From the very first days, the boy’s talent attracted the attention of Andries Jonker, former director of Arsenal’s academy.

Bukayo Saka: Hành trình của một ngôi sao - Báo Công an Nhân dân điện tử

Nestled next to London’s busy North Circular street, Arsenal’s Hale End academy appears like a football oasis. It was here that Bukayo Saka gradually grew from a small boy to become a bright star in the world football sky.

That journey began when Saka was just nine years old. From the very beginning, his talent caught the attention of Andries Jonker, the former head of Arsenal’s academy. Jonker was impressed by Saka’s superior physique, speed, strength and finishing ability compared to his peers. However, he also wondered whether those physical advantages would fade over time.

Greg Lincoln, Saka’s first coach at Hale End, recalled: “He was a bright, inquisitive boy with a radiant smile. Even then, Saka’s dribbling and finishing ability were outstanding.”

bukayo saka's rapid ascentSaka showed maturity in the match against FK Qarabag when he was only 17 years old.

However, Jonker admitted that Saka was not the brightest name in the group of talented players that year. Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson are all highly rated. Jonker’s confession shows the complexity in predicting the potential of young players, when the differences between them are so slim.

Saka’s character traits include humility, a desire to learn and a desire to improve. Lincoln recalls a trip to Spain when Saka was 11: “We asked him to play centre-back in a seven-a-side tournament. Instead of complaining, Saka took on the challenge with gusto.”

bukayo saka's rapid ascentSaka is England’s hope at the upcoming EURO.

Steve Morrow, a former Arsenal player who closely followed Saka’s career since he was a child, commented: “The ability to dominate physically is Saka’s most outstanding feature. But what makes me believe in his potential His versatility and ability to play in many positions.”

Lincoln added: “Saka can play well in every position, except goalkeeper. He can break through from the left, get past opponents with speed and then finish with a deadly shot.”

Besides natural talent, Saka also possesses a professional working spirit and incredible learning ability. Lincoln shared: “We have made efforts to help Saka hone his defensive skills, ability to read the game and make accurate decisions.”

The outstanding progress helped Saka soon be promoted to the Arsenal U18 team. Lincoln recalls the match against Tottenham Hotspur, when Saka came off the bench and made a big contribution to helping Arsenal come back to win 3-1.

bukayo saka's rapid ascentSaka is a great inspiration for generations of young players at Hale End.

It was no surprise that Saka signed a professional contract with Arsenal. Morrow recalled his conversations with Saka’s family: “They were very interested in his long-term development. We convinced them with a specific and detailed plan.”

Saka quickly integrated and asserted himself in the Arsenal first team . His strength, speed, finishing ability and tenacious fighting spirit helped him become an indispensable pillar in coach Mikel Arteta’s squad .

Looking back on Saka’s journey, Lincoln commented: “The qualities he shows now are what we saw when he was a 9-year-old boy.”

Saka’s story is a great inspiration to generations of young players at Hale End. He is a perfect combination of natural talent, professional spirit and great character. From Hale End to the football lights, Saka has been writing his own fairytale.