Down to earth, a model professional and takes EVERYTHING in his stride… Bukayo Saka is England’s humble hero: How the Arsenal ace went from straight-A student to teaching the Czechs a lesson
- Bukayo Saka put in man-of-the-match performance in win over Czech Republic
- Saka is a popular member in the England squad and was praised by team-mates
- The youngster has a down-to-earth nature and takes everything in his stride
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
There might not be a more popular man of the moment in the England squad than the latest one, Bukayo Saka.
‘Too happy for this guy,’ posted Jadon Sancho on Instagram, reflecting on Saka’s thrilling man-of-the-match display against the Czech Republic.
‘You deserve everything brother,’ added Declan Rice. ‘He’s tough, funny, gets on with everyone. I’m buzzing for him,’ said match-winner Raheem Sterling.
Bukayo Saka showcased his talent as he starred in England’s win over the Czech Republic
Such genuine joy at his success would have been felt by almost anyone who has encountered Saka.
At 19, the first England teenager to start a Euros game since Wayne Rooney in 2004 is a humble hero.
His wide-ranging versatility has become increasingly clear since he broke into Arsenal’s first team in 2018. He carried them at times last season despite his tender years and was unsurprisingly named their player of the season.
What also helps make him so popular is that there is no big ego despite the size of his considerable talent. In fact, quite the opposite.
Speak to anyone about Saka and it will not be long before his down-to-earth nature, the fact he takes everything in his stride, and the role his parents have played in his upbringing by instilling the right values get mentioned.
Saka was England’s standout player and got huge praise from his team-mates for his display
Indeed on Tuesday, just a few hours after his big night at Wembley, Saka was already focusing on what comes next.
At Arsenal, he is described as a breath of fresh air. He is the perfect poster boy for their academy. At times he has left staff questioning if it is really possible for someone to have it all.
Not only is he seen as a model player, but a model student and person, too.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Saka surprised club staff by volunteering to help out with some of Arsenal’s community activities. Off his own back, he was keen to set up a call with the club and his parents to see how they could be of assistance and aid Arsenal’s work in the north London area.
The pandemic, which has affected what Arsenal can do, has hit those plans for now but Saka has let them know he remains keen for those discussions to go ahead so he can get involved when the time is right. That gesture is a sign of the pride Saka has in representing Arsenal.
He joined the club aged seven and was always one of the best players of his age for club and country. Saka and Manchester City’s Tommy Doyle were the two tipped for big things by FA staff.
The Arsenal ace’s versatility and professionalism has caught the eye of Gareth Southgate
Arsenal coaches loved him, while his natural ability made him stand out to seasoned youth-football watchers, who remember a young Saka’s effortless style and the way he glided around the pitch.
Saka was was heavily relied upon coming through the Arsenal ranks, just as he has been at times in the first team.
There were concerns about burnout as he was also needed for England youth duty. Physically as well as technically, though, he could cope.
Despite a top-level professional career being almost inevitable, that did not stop the value of education being impressed on Saka.
And his efforts balancing school — travelling from Greenford High, Ealing, to Arsenal almost every night to train — with football paid off when he left with four A*s and three As in his GCSEs.
The 19-year-old has become a key player for Arsenal and is loved by coaches at his club
Saka joined Arsenal as a seven-year-old and is the perfect poster boy for their academy
Saka has cited Freddie Ljungberg as one of his influential coaches, especially in those earlier days.
The Swede, who first worked with him aged 14, will no doubt have felt on Tuesday the same way that some of Saka’s England team-mates did.
‘He is a kid who you feel so happy when he does well, because he deserves it,’ Ljungberg said in March.
Saka has Unai Emery to thank for handing him his Arsenal debut. And after Emery’s Villarreal had knocked Arsenal out of the Europa League, even amid the disappointment, Saka did not forget.
He made a point of asking for Emery’s whereabouts, finding the Spaniard and patiently waiting for him to finish his media duties so they could speak.
SofaScore’s graphic shows how Saka was a threat in both boxes on Tuesday night at Wembley
Saka recently sought out Unai Emery to thank him for giving him his chance at Arsenal
That was another indication of the respectful, well-mannered personality Saka possesses as a result of his upbringing by his biggest influence, his family. Saka is also deeply religious and credits God for any success he achieves.
Those who have watched his rise salute Saka, too. When he broke into the first team, he would have been forgiven for being tired and heading home after a hard day’s training. But it was noted how willing he was to spend extra time with Arsenal’s analysts in one-to-one sessions, assessing his game and where he could improve.
Rather than grumble at being moved from position to position as some might, Saka uses every new opportunity as another chance to develop and continue his education as a player.
His ability to shine wherever deployed, given the number of different roles he has been handed, and make any position look like it might be his best is almost unique.
Despite all the plaudits coming his way, Saka remains endearingly unaffected by it all and understands he is still just starting out.
Where he will end up is a hugely exciting prospect for both Arsenal and England.
Saka has a well-mannered personality and is one the most popular members in England squad
Those who watched Saka’s rise will be delighted for him, but this is only just the beginning
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