Emerging talent Carney Chukwuemeka is showing all the signs of a Premier League star in the making – but Aston Villa face a huge battle to retain his services.
The 18-year-old midfielder has demonstrated many of the attributes required to succeed in the top flight in his seven Premier League appearances to date – worrying defenders with his pace and power and showing composure on the ball beyond his years.
Austrian-born Chukwuemeka, who joined the Villa academy from Northampton Town’s academy in March 2016, signed his first professional contract at Villa Park in July 2020 and has captained the England U19s side, as well as helping Villa to FA Youth Cup glory in May this year.
His fleeting appearances in the senior side have caught the eye of football pundits across the country and Manchester giants City and United and Liverpool are among the sides rumoured to be looking to tempt him away from Birmingham. United and City were said to be ‘tracking’ the teenager earlier this year.
Chukwuemeka has plenty of faith in his ability and believes he should be featuring prominently in the senior team, which has led to much speculation about his future, particularly after impressive cameos against title-chasers Manchester City and Chelsea.
What are former Villa stars saying?
Ex-Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie – a Bodymoor Heath academy graduate himself - has given this piece of advice.
Hendrie said: “It’s important what Villa are actually building at the moment. That’s what should make him want to stay there. Something special is going to happen at this football club. I’ve got no doubt about it.
“I’m not saying it’s going to come under Steven (Gerrard). I’ve just got this belief this club is slowly transitioning into competing back among the European spots at some stage.
“Now, they’ve got a crop of youngsters that are going to keep filtering through. If Stevie can add to that and bring in extra-special players who can nurture them, I feel Villa are certainly going in the right direction.
“That’s why I say that these youngsters should stick around.”
Another former Villa midfield ace Paul Merson echoed the sentiments, saying patience is key for Chukwuemeka.
Merson said: “Stay at the club. Villa is a massive football club. Some people don’t realise how big they are. You’re working under a top manager in a team going places. Just be patient.
“They’re not far off the top six. They’re not a million miles off that now.
“I can understand if you’re one of the youngsters and Stevie goes out and buys £60m players next season, then you assess it, but at the moment I don’t see it.
“I think they might bring in a couple of players but at the moment I think they’ve got great faith in the kids and the academy.”
So what’s the latest with Chukwuemeka’s contract situation?
Chukwuemeka penned his first professional contract in October 2020 and the deal lasts until the summer of 2023.
However, this means the summer transfer window of 2022 is the last in which Villa could get a transfer fee for Chukwuemeka, who would be free to speak to foreign clubs about a free transfer a year from now.
It’s clear to see, therefore, that Villa boss Gerrard faces a key few months ahead in his battle to persuade Chukwuemeka to remain in the Second City.