Arnaut Danjuma failed to score in Premier League with Bournemouth but now says he is one of the best wingers in the WORLD. Villarreal star grew up idolising Ronaldo, so after Man United scouts watched him sink Bayern, could he be their new star?
- Arnaut Danjuma has scored 14 goals in 30 appearances for Villarreal this term
- Manchester United scouts watched him score against Bayern Munich this week
- He has been compared to Kylian Mbappe and says he is among the best wingers
- Sportsmail looks at if he can be man to lead United’s attack under Erik ten Hag
Arnaut Danjuma may not have had the most glittering career to date, but there is no doubt the Dutchman does not suffer from a lack of confidence regardless.
His current successful spell at LaLiga side Villarreal is the latest addition to his CV which also includes stints of varied success at Bournemouth, Club Brugge and NEC Nijmegen.
But there is self-belief from the 25-year-old that he can still reach the very top. ‘If we look at what I’ve done this season it’s quite fair and factual to say I’m among the best wingers in the world,’ he told The Guardian earlier this week.
Manchester United scouts watched Arnaut Danjuma during his superb display against Bayern
His goal has given Villarreal a chance of reaching the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2006
How factual that truly is would take hours upon hours of statistical analysis but what can be said with confidence immediately is that Danjuma has risen from Bournemouth misfit to a star at Villarreal.
The Yellow Submarines are now in with a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Champions League thanks solely to his eighth-minute goal in the quarter-final first leg against German giants Bayern Munich.
It was his 14th goal in 29 games this season across all competitions, a far cry from the injury-hit player who failed to score for the Cherries in 15 Premier League appearances prior to their relegation in 2020.
He did score 17 goals last season in the Championship before moving to Spain for £21.3million last summer, and he has received no shortage of praise since, including a comparison to a highly-coveted forward in Europe.
His tally of 14 goals this term is a far cry from the player who struggled in the Premier League
‘Danjuma is one of the best talents of his generation,’ his agent Michael Jarman told Calciomercato last month. ‘For me, he belongs to the category of [Kylian] Mbappe, but fate wanted us to know of him only now.
‘For the future, everything is possible. In Italy, there are fantastic clubs and, obviously, Danjuma will want to win trophies in his career. But he is so happy at Villarreal and with [Unai] Emery that nothing else matters at the moment.’
Whether he could be tempted away soon remains to be seen, but nevertheless Manchester United scouts watched him in Europe in midweek, which was revealed by Sportsmail.
United are one of a number of European clubs tracking Danjuma’s progress, though the 25-year-old winger signed a contract until 2026 last summer and is known to have a £64m buyout clause.
Asked by Sportsmail last year if a return to the English top flight is on the cards for the future, he said: ‘I aim for the highest possible [accolades] in my career and play the highest platform of football.
Danjuma scored 17 goals in the Championship for Bournemouth before moving to Spain
‘If that means the Champions League I want to prove myself, if that means the Premier League then that will be the Premier League. I came to Villarreal to prove myself again but I’m definitely visualising the next step.’
But with Erik ten Hag close to being appointed as United’s next permanent manager, a move would see Danjuma have to acclimatise back to a league where he has struggled previously under a boss who has never managed in England, in a team that perhaps next season will not be ready to take that ‘next step’ he refers to.
Meanwhile, in Spain he plays under a manager who despite retaining his Premier League critics has already won the Europa League with Villarreal and has managed to develop the Dutchman’s game.
‘Unai Emery has played a big part in helping me since the beginning so I can’t complain about anything,’ he told MARCA in February.
He then told The Guardian this week about how the former Arsenal manager convinced him to join, stating: ‘We’ve got Unai Emery as the captain leading the ship and he always comes up with a master plan.
His game has been likened to PSG star Kylian Mbappe (middle) due to his pace and position
‘Unai was very clear when he explained how I could learn from him. I knew working under Unai would give me a boost because I could understand the game better.
‘He is busy with me on a daily basis and I have a lot of conversations with him about how to better myself. He is a strategy mastermind.’
Such development has also seen Liverpool linked, and comparisons with Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe due to his pace and ability to attack off the left flank.
Danjuma sees the similarities, telling El Pais last month: ‘My physique is like Mbappe’s, I don’t have a ceiling.’ And like the Frenchman, Danjuma does not want to be tied down to a single position, whether it be on the left or through the middle.
‘I think I’m best when I’m playing a mixture of the two positions,’ he told MARCA. ‘The starting XI can be illusive at times, for me it just depends on how Unai wants me to play in a certain game.
‘I can play as a winger, a striker or in-between. I think that is something that Unai really liked about my qualities and ability to play in more than one position. In training we work on a lot of movements, whether that be on the left or more as a striker.
Danjuma told Sportsmail earlier this year that his idol is Man United star Cristiano Ronaldo
‘My preference is to play on the left and to have the freedom to come inside, I believe that is my best position. However, I know I can play as a striker in two up top, on the wing in a 4-3-3.
‘For modern players it is good to have all the attributes and to play in different positions because the higher the quality of the game, the more tools you need to win the game, especially as a modern winger.’
No doubt that is just one of the many things Danjuma has learnt from his idol Cristiano Ronaldo – who he saw score in the flesh and in dramatic fashion when Villarreal played United in the group stages earlier this season.
‘I am secretly a fan of Ronaldo!’ he told Sportsmail in September. ‘He is definitely a player I have always looked up to and I respect him in a lot of ways.
‘Cristiano Ronaldo used to be, and still is, an inspiration for me in football, so that shows that I’m doing something good as well. The minute you meet your idols – or your rivals let me say – you’re doing something good.’
Now he could be the man brought in to play under expected new United boss Erik ten Hag
All the signs are pointing to him excelling in the game. The jump from Championship to LaLiga has been rapid inside 12 months but he has made an almost seamless transition.
And just like his Portuguese idol, the Dutchman appears meticulous in his work, determined to improve and not simply be satisfied with playing for the Europa League holders.
Born to a Dutch father and a Nigerian mother before moving to Holland when he was four, Danjuma’s career can be summarised as unpredictable, but now regular work with coaches on movement, shape and his position in formation are now driving him to what he hopes will be guaranteed success.
PSV Eindhoven’s academy were convinced he was not first team material, but try telling Villarreal fans and potential suitors he is not now. It has been an unpredictable career for a player who attempts to demonstrate that same characteristic on the field.
Danjuma has gone on to represent Holland and believes unpredictability is his best asset
Asked about his best quality by El Pais, he said: ‘That I am unpredictable. If you can dribble, pass, shoot one-twos and move into spaces, the opponents won’t know what to focus on.
‘The question is to sharpen your tools and [then] recognise what the game needs.’
He did just that against Bayern Munich, and it is arguable United currently do not possess enough players who respond appropriately to certain game situations.
Perhaps then he could culturally be a good fit at Old Trafford under his compatriot ten Hag, but he may need plenty of convincing he can achieve his domestic and European dreams at a club that has flattered to deceive again this season.
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