Arsenal set to sign Nigerian wonder kids

Nigeria's Kelechi Nwakali carries the Fifa Under-17 World Cup trophy on his head at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja, on Nov 11, 2015.
Nigeria's Kelechi Nwakali carries the Fifa Under-17 World Cup trophy on his head at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja, on Nov 11, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Arsene Wenger looks to have stolen a march on other leading clubs in making Arsenal favourites to secure the services of Kelechi Nwakali and Samuel Chukwueze, said to be two of the most talented youngsters in the world.

Bayern Munich were among those looking to sign them but the Frenchman has built a reputation for developing players and seems likely to be able to keep his promise of being busy in the transfer window.

The pair are likely to cost a minimum combined fee of £3 million (S$6.21 million).

Nwakali was the star of the Under-17 World Cup in Chile last November, where he captained Nigeria to victory and was crowned Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

The 17-year-old playmaker has been tracked by Manchester City, where his older brother Chidiebere plays, and his economic rights are believed to be owned in part by Diamond Football Academy of Umuahia and ASJ Academy Owerri, where he was developed.

Nwakali and Chukwueze, another Nigerian from the ASJ Football Academy, were tied on three goals and three assists at the World Cup finals. The players and their families are expected to arrive in London to complete a deal this month. They will be handed professional contracts when they turn 18.

A more pressing concern for Wenger is whether his Arsenal side can pass another stern test of their Premier League title credentials when they take on Liverpool today.

The Gunners head to Anfield two points clear at the top of the table and having won five of their last six league games.

The weekend's FA Cup third-round victory over Sunderland extended their winning run and Wenger acknowledges his side's recent success has strengthened the belief they can push on in the second half of the season.

He said: "In December and now in January we have been consistent and we go into a very important part of the season because we play many games.

"Every time we go to Anfield, we face a team who is up for it. It's always a ferocious battle. They had a very strong manager before, they have a very strong one now and Juergen Klopp has the personality to do well there."

Wenger has won three and drawn one of his six meetings with Klopp in the Champions League since 2011.

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2016, with the headline 'Arsenal set to sign Nigerian wonder kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe