Kelechi Nwakali made his first La Liga start for SD Huesca on Saturday, against a team you might have heard of before – Real Madrid.
Nwakali left Arsenal for Huesca as a Spanish second division side last season, and initially struggled to get into their squad due to permit issues. Eventually, he sorted everything out and made his debut in June, appearing in five matches post-lockdown.
Fortunately, Huesca did very well in his absence. They achieved promotion back to La Liga, taking Nwakali up with them.
The midfielder made a couple of substitute appearances against Villarreal and Real Sociedad in the early weeks of the season, before getting his first start in Europe’s top-five leagues against Real Madrid on Saturday.
Nwakali played the opening hour before coming off, and Real unsurprisingly dominated the encounter. They were winning 3-0 at the time of the former Gunner’s substitution.
The 22-year-old did well enough on an individual basis, completing over 90% of his passes and winning three of five individual duels. Though it was too easy to play around him for Real’s third goal.
There will be easier tests up ahead for Huesca and Nwakali, for sure.
Nwakali has a contract with Huesca until 2022, and he confirmed last summer that Arsenal have a buy-back option in his contract. He just needs to find a way to get regular games and impress them enough to take it up.
Making it up into the top division and starting the big games is a good start.