Last month, Arnaut Danjuma capped off one of the best nights in Villarreal history, scoring the minnows’ third goal in a 3-0 win over Juventus.
The result eliminated I Bianconeri from the Champions League at the round of 16 stage in their own backyard, and Danjuma’s involvement added an extra pinch of magic to this already storybook moment.
Exactly one year earlier, the striker was lining up for AFC Bournemouth in the English second tier when they took on Swansea City behind closed doors. In that game Danjuma scored and recorded an assist, two of the 17 goal contributions with which he would end the campaign.
After the Cherries failed in the championship playoffs, he was signed by Yellow Submarine for around €25m, where he has been posting numbers above those of players with a much higher reputation.
Scoring the decisive goal against Juventus was the latest in a long list of Champions League and La Liga highlights this season, with Danjuma averaging just under a goal every two games in all competitions.
speaking to 90 minutes Recently, he revealed that he has not found the increase in quality so challenging in this period.
“I’m still not satisfied, but it hasn’t been that hard to adjust to be honest with you,” he said.
“But there are multiple reasons for that. My teammates have helped me a lot to adapt to the country, all the staff have been with me from day one to make sure I adapt to the way they want me to play. It hasn’t been that hard, but I need to give credit where credit is due.”
On Wednesday, Danjuma will face the biggest challenge of his career to date: a Champions League quarter-final first leg against an all-conquering Bayern Munich side.
After being grabbed by the Sport cameras as the whistle was blown full-time in Turin last month, the 25-year-old gave one of the most memorable post-match interviews of the 2021/22 Champions League so far. During this talk, a beaming Danjuma repeatedly insisted that ‘the sky is the limit’ for this special Villarreal group.
That proclamation will be put to the test against Die Roten, but he insisted the squad were not daunted by a visit from Julian Nagelsmann’s full-back.
“There are a lot of people who have the opinion that we are the underdogs and you don’t want to play against Bayern Munich because they are one of the biggest clubs in the world,” he began.
“But the funny thing is that we are the complete opposite. We beat Juventus for a reason. Even if you look at the group stage, we put in a good performance against Manchester United and went through.
“They won the Europa League last year, beating Man Utd and Arsenal. So the group is not necessarily afraid of the bigger clubs and that is the mindset you need to have if you compete in the Champions League.
“That’s the mindset that I have and that’s the mindset that I will always strive to have before a game. There is no reason to compete if you don’t think you can win.
“Although it is Bayern Munich, and we will give it respect where it is due, as it is one of the best clubs in world football, yet they are still human, they still breathe, they still walk like us, they still do everything we do. do. Everyone can have a bad day too, and we will definitely go into the game trying to win it.”
If Villarreal upset the odds once again, canny head coach Unai Emery will play a pivotal role. A master of frustrating top opposition, Danjuma is confident the Spaniard will come up with another ‘master plan’ to beat the Bundesliga champions.
“I have a very good relationship with him. [Emery]. He recently told me that: ‘I’ve changed too,’ which is very impressive for me to hear from a coach like him,” he said.
“He was already one of the best managers in world club football and for him to continue to improve every day, it is clear that he is aiming for higher things, which is exactly the same mentality that I have. He will always find ways to improve his strategy, to improve his training, to improve his players. That is one of the reasons why he has done so well for us.”
Emery isn’t the only top trainer Danjuma has had the pleasure of working with in recent times. Shortly after taking charge of the Dutch team for the third time, Louis van Gaal recalled Danjuma after a long hiatus and, if he stays fit, he is a surefire candidate to travel to the World Cup later this year. .
“Working with Louis is very good for me. If you look at what he has achieved and what kind of manager he is, it is a privilege to work with managers like that because I have a lot to learn,” he said.
“And especially because Louis is such a personal coach, he always strives to have the best relationship with his players.”
Danjuma also hopes that the Netherlands can draw strength from the sad news that Van Gaal is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, a fact that kept the group hidden until very recently.
“What came out meant a lot to the group and he is very special to the group,” he said.
“Obviously it’s sad news, but there are still some positives to draw because the group wants to fight for him and the World Cup will definitely be more special for us. We all support him and we will try to make the best of the situation.”
Although the World Cup is likely to be the next immediate milestone in his career, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Danjuma has more to come.
Going forward, he may be eager for another shot at the Premier League, as his only season in the English top flight ended in relegation. When asked about this possibility, Danjuma admitted that he missed playing in England.
“I 100% enjoyed my time in England. Looking back now, I by no means appreciated it as much as I should have when I lived there,” she said.
“For me, it’s such a nice country to live in and I speak the language fluently, so that helps too! I’m doing my best in Spanish too. I have family who still live in England.
“In terms of the Premier League, it is indescribable. What I will never forget in the Premier League are the fans. If you just walk into the stadium, you can’t replicate the feel of a Premier League match somewhere else in the world, it’s different.
“So in that sense, you’re always going to miss a little bit of England. If I come back one day, I guess it depends on my performance and what the future holds for me.”
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