Bukayo Saka: ‘Fearless’ Arsenal and England star can step up to Germany challenge at Euros

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 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

After England booked a showdown with Germany in the last 16 of Euro 2020, one of several selection headaches facing Gareth Southgate is whether Bukayo Saka should start.

Despite winning man of the match against the Czech Republic on Tuesday, there are some who will have concerns whether the 19-year-old is ready for a knockout tie at a major tournament.

History has shown, however, that whenever a challenge is thrown to Saka, he invariably steps up to the plate.

“He is a lovely lad and he has got the world at his feet,” said England midfielder Jack Grealish. “He is young and he is fearless.”

Seeing Saka shine for England at Wembley this week will have come as no surprise to those at Arsenal, who are fully aware of the teenager’s talent.

Ever since he was handed his first-team debut at the age of 17, the forward has developed at an alarming rate, so much so it felt like he was carrying Arsenal at times last season.

Saka denied that was the case during an interview with Standard Sport earlier this season, which is a nod to his humble nature, but there is no denying he was Arsenal’s talisman during a difficult campaign for the Gunners.

Whether he was put in at left-back, left-wing, right-wing or even central midfield, Saka delivered for Mikel Arteta — and you shudder to think where they would have been without him.

“This is what he’s been doing at Arsenal all season, getting us out of holes by being positive, going at people and making things happen,” said former Gunners striker Ian Wright on ITV, after Tuesday’s win over the Czech Republic. “Everybody at Arsenal knows that Saka is burdened with glorious purpose.”

Will England boss Gareth Southgate keep faith in Bukayo Saka for Germany showdown? (The FA via Getty Images)
Will England boss Gareth Southgate keep faith in Bukayo Saka for Germany showdown? (The FA via Getty Images)

Long before he was shining for England, Saka was making the first steps of his football career in the back garden of his home in Greenford, west London. It was there he would be breaking fences and goals, as he and his brother, Yomi, played football with their father — until their mother demanded they go to bed.

Both were snapped up by clubs in their youth, with Bukayo signing for Arsenal at the age of eight and Yomi joining Watford.

Yomi eventually left Watford at the age of 14, but Bukayo’s star continued to rise — and now he finds himself performing on one of the biggest stages of all.

The spotlight, however, will not faze Saka, and his family make sure he keeps his feet on the ground. He still lives with his parents, at a home he bought near Arsenal’s London Colney training ground, and those at the club describe him as the model student: polite, punctual and hungry to succeed.

Arsenal star Saka has passed every challenge thrown at him during his career to date (The FA via Getty Images)
Arsenal star Saka has passed every challenge thrown at him during his career to date (The FA via Getty Images)

Saka is not just loved by those at Arsenal for his action on the pitch, but off it, too. Despite progressing through the club’s youth ranks, he never dropped focus on his studies and earned four A*s and three As in his GCSEs. Unsurprisingly, he got an A* in PE, but he impressively achieved the same grade in business studies.

Saka has a close relationship with Arsenal manager Arteta, who he credits for unlocking his potential. Arteta is a huge fan in return and, while he would never admit it in public, the Spaniard would love nothing more than to have 11 versions of the teenager on the pitch at once.

Arsenal legend Freddie Ljungberg also played a key role in Saka’s development, working with him at youth level, and the pair are still in contact.

The Swede often texts Saka after games — and he will, no doubt, have been picking up his phone following Tuesday’s group decider against the Czech Republic.

And, who knows, perhaps he will be doing the same after next week’s match against Germany.

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