The Arsenal teenager, who could make his Europa League debut against Rapid Vienna on Thursday evening, has always been a player who has total faith in his own abilities.
That confidence helped him stand out from the crowd during his formidable rise through Gunners’ Hale End Academy, and right now he’s just two months after he turned 18. Year of life on the verge of his first team sheet.
« I would love to be the best football player in the world, » he said during an interview with Spanish journalist Guillem Balague. “I have the attributes, I have the work rate, so it’s up to me to keep working hard.
“I never doubt myself because when you have doubts, it is difficult to reach your highest potential. My parents always told me that you had to believe in yourself and keep working towards your dream because nothing is impossible. «
Azeez has long been seen in the Arsenal Academy as a player with the potential to become a star.
He first arrived as a five-year-old, turned down Chelsea and West Ham overtures to join the club he sponsored, and soon began making waves in Hale End.
He has been in the fast lane at times, playing with age groups well beyond his own, just like Bukayo Saka during his own rapid ascent towards the first team.
Saka is obviously way ahead of Azeez in terms of pecking order, but the England U18 international is focused on being the next product off the Hale End production line to force its way into the first-team image in north London.
He now trains regularly with the senior national team and traveled to Norway last week, where he was substituted on when the Gunners beat Molde 3-0 to ensure passage into the knockout stages of the Europa League.
Now that qualifications are secured, Azeez has every chance to make his senior debut – either against Rapid Vienna on Thursday evening or in the final group game in Dundalk in a week.
But even if Mikel Arteta gave him the opportunity to impress, it wouldn’t be a reason for a grand celebration of a player who is always looking to the future.
« I’m never satisfied with what I do, » he said. « If there is more to be done, I’ll do it.
« I’m always the first to come to practice and the last to go and do all sorts of extras to make myself the best possible player I can be. « . This has to be the way you think if you want to be the best. «
Azeez has become a key player for the U23 this season after signing his first professional contract as recently as September last year.
Initially he developed as a box-to-box midfielder with a keen eye for goal, but now he’s more of a holding midfielder.
Per Mertesacker, Arsenal’s academy manager, was the man who recognized Azeez’s potential as number 1. 6, and the midfielder hasn’t looked back since.
As a student of the game, he watches soccer to learn from the best. Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira is one player he looks up to, but there is another one who really stands out.
« Sergio Busquets, » said the Gunners’ youngster. « I think he’s the best midfielder in a long time. He always seems to have space around him, always plays with his head held high and one step ahead. For me, I like to put some of his game into my game.
« When players run at 100 mph, they can’t really see what’s going on, and sometimes you have to play with a little calm. ”
Should Azeez make his debut in the coming weeks, there will be many in Spain and Nigeria to watch his progress closely.
Although he represented England in youth through the U18, he also qualifies for Spain through his mother and Nigeria through his father.
Both countries have announced that they will represent them in the future, and the teenager has yet to decide where his top-level allegiances will be.
However, for the moment he is solely focused on Arsenal and continues a journey that he began 13 years ago and which now leaves him on the sidelines of the first team.
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Arsenal F. . C.. . , UEFA Europa League, SK Rapid Vienna, Mikel Arteta, Premier League
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