Akinkunmi Amoo: Nigeria’s ‘Little Messi’ setting Swedish football alight

Akinkunmi Amoo: Nigeria’s ‘Little Messi’ setting Swedish football alight

November 10, 2021 0 By Oha

The 19-year-old winger has 18 direct goal contributions in 2021 for Hammarby, with Ajax & Leicester City reportedly among those tracking his progress

Akinkunmi Amoo
Akinkunmi Amoo

When Akinkunmi Amoo put pen to paper on a four-year deal with Swedish side Hammarby in June 2020, even he would have done well to imagine how the next 17 months of his career would go.

The teenager likely anticipated a slow integration into then-head coach Stefan Billborn’s team, but his fast-tracked development under Milos Milojevic has led to a breakout campaign for the winger that has clubs from Europe’s biggest leagues taking notice.

Aided by Alexander Kacaniklic’s departure to six-time Croatian champions Hajduk Split, Amoo has seized his opportunity to assume an important role for the Stockholm outfit.Editors’ Picks

Over the course of the 2021 season, the teenager has contributed 13 goals and five assists to the Hammarby cause as their campaign enters its final weeks.

How he got here from his formative years growing up in Ibadan, Nigeria is a fine story

Despite being a beneficiary of Hammarby’s inclination to snap up young talent and develop them, the determined 19-year-old has not had this opportunity handed to him. Rather, he has had to prove himself.

The timing of his transfer to Europe was doubly complicated due to the pandemic, but any adaption concerns there might have been have not been shown on the pitch

“I worked hard during the lockdown in Nigeria as it’s not easy playing professional football, so I had to put in the necessary effort,” Amoo said shortly after his arrival in Scandanavia.

“The coaches have welcomed me like a son and I talk to them regularly.”

Having seldom been exposed to competitive football, the fact Amoo has almost seamlessly adapted in Sweden is a credit to the player’s drive and determination.

A product of the Brightville Academy in Ibadan, he left his roots for a move to Sidos FC in Lagos, which in turn opened the door for participation at breakthrough youth tournaments in 2019 – the Africa Under-17 Cup of Nations in April and FIFA U17 World Cup months later.

Even though the Golden Eaglets could not claim either title, a goal in the junior AFCON in Tanzania and a trio of assists at the World Cup in Brazil announced Amoo to a broader audience.Check out football’s best wonderkids with NXGN:

He subsequently said no to overtures from AC Milan and Monaco, instead preferring the Hammarby project and choosing to move to a club that had monitored him for about two years before signing him permanently.

In just a year, the youngster – who fondly remembers his first conversation with Hammarby’s most famous part-owner, Zlatan Ibrahimovic – has fulfilled his ambition of becoming a first-team regular at Bajen.

“It was incredible. I was very impressed and happy. Zlatan is an incredibly great football player that I look up to, but above all a very nice person,” the teenager told SportExpressen in June last year.

“We talked a lot when we met and he gave me advice for the future. It felt like I became even braver after our conversation.

“Zlatan said that I should dare to play my game, stay focused all the time and not be afraid of anyone because then I will develop.”

His desires to win the club’s second Allsvenskan title (a first since 2001), participate in Champions League football and simply play in front of his mother highlight both Amoo’s lofty ambitions and tender years.

The youngster is already making a name for himself in the interim, and was instrumental in Hammarby’s first Svenska Cupen title in in 2021. He netted four times en route to the final, notably notching a double in his tournament debut in December’s 5-0 hammering of FC Gute.

The ongoing campaign has been breathtaking for Amoo, who tries to imitate arguably the greatest to ever play the game.

“I usually hear that I play like Leo Messi, so I am sometimes called ‘Little Messi’,” he said. “He’s my role model.”

Indeed, the diminutive Amoo tends to drift to the right flank like the Argentine, looking to move in-field to combine with team-mates or spray passes to the opposite flank to open up the pitch.

Like Messi, he is also fond of taking up positions in the inside-right channel, finding half a yard before shooting at goal.

Having said that, Amoo admittedly lacks the accuracy of his idol’s shooting, an expected flaw owing to his youth.

Being rough around the edges is par for the course for someone as green as the former Sidos player, a reality foreseen by the club’s director of football, Jesper Jansson, after the Nigerian joined the club.

“With Akin, we get an explosive, skilled and offensive player with a nice left foot. But we must remember that he has just turned 18, so we must have patience and work together to develop Akin’s top qualities.”

His touch can be heavy at times, his shooting off-kilter on occasion and there is a penchant for misplacing seemingly easy passes, yet Amoo is still earning admiring glances from the likes of Ajax, Leicester City and Valencia, while talk of a full Nigeria call-up continues to intensify.

And while he likely will never match or surpass Messi’s achievements, the Hammarby teenage sensation’s determination to succeed is stimulating, and it will be fascinating to watch him grow. Watch this space!