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Bukayo Saka Biography and Profile

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Bukayo Ayoyinka Temidayo Saka (born 5 September 2001) is an English professional footballer who plays as a right winger for Premier League club Arsenal and the England national team. He is regarded as one of the best wingers in the world.

Saka has spent his entire first-team club career with Arsenal, where he has won an FA Cup and two FA Community Shields, progressively becoming one of Arsenal’s most influential players. Following both the 2020–21 and 2021–22 seasons, he was named as Arsenal’s Player of the Season.

Saka represented England at various youth levels before making his debut for the senior team in October 2020. He was part of England’s squads for UEFA Euro 2020, which England finished as runners-up, and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Early life

Bukayo Ayoyinka Temidayo Saka was born on 5 September 2001 in Ealing, Greater London, to Yoruba Nigerian parents, Adenike and Yomi Saka, the younger of two children. His parents emigrated to London from Nigeria as economic migrants. He attended Edward Betham Church of England Primary School[12] before Greenford High School, where he gained high grades in his GCSEs, achieving four A*s and three As. Prior to joining Arsenal, Saka played youth football for local club Greenford Celtic.15] In an interview, Saka stated the importance of his father, Yomi, in his footballing career: “He’s a massive inspiration for me. From when I was young, he always kept me grounded, kept me humble.”

His name “Bukayo” originates from the Yoruba language spoken in southern Nigeria, meaning “adds to happiness”

Arsenal star Bukayo Saka suffers injury against Sheffield UnitedClub career

Early career

Having previously played for youth teams of Watford, Saka joined Arsenal’s Hale End academy at the age of seven.

In 2020, Arsenal U16 coach Trevor Bumstead stated; “Bukayo always stood out in the younger teams. He was a fantastic decision maker. He knew when to beat people and when to pass, as well as having brilliant physical attributes and really good character and personality. Once he turned 17 years old, Saka signed a professional contract with Arsenal and promoted to the under-23 team.

On 29 November 2018, Saka made his first-team debut for Arsenal in their UEFA Europa League match against Vorskla Poltava, coming on as a 68th-minute substitute for Aaron Ramsey.[22] On 13 December, Saka made his first full home debut for Arsenal in their Europa League match against Qarabağ. On 1 January 2019, Saka made his debut in the Premier League in a 4–1 win against Fulham after coming on for Alex Iwobi in the 83rd minute. He became the first player born in 2001 to play in a Premier League match. He was an unused substitute in the 2019 UEFA Europa League final 4–1 defeat against Chelsea on 29 May, receiving a runners-up medal.

2019–2020: Breakthrough and FA Cup win

Saka scored his first goal on 19 September, curling a fine effort from long range into the corner away to German team Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League. He finished the match with two assists also to his name in a 3–0 win. Saka was rewarded for his efforts in Germany with his first Premier League start, in a 3–2 home win over Aston Villa. He then registered an assist for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, setting up Arsenal’s equaliser in a 1–1 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

Following injuries to Sead Kolašinac and Kieran Tierney, Saka began to establish himself as a regular in the Arsenal first team at left-back. On 27 January 2020, he scored the opening goal in Arsenal’s 2–1 FA Cup fourth round victory at AFC Bournemouth after finishing a 22-pass move, as well as assisting the second goal, scored by Eddie Nketiah. The goal was later voted goal of the round by BBC Sport.[29] After a two-week mid-season break, Saka marked his return to action at home to Newcastle United with an assist for Nicolas Pépé‘s goal.[30] He then set up Alexandre Lacazette for his ninth assist of the season in a 1–0 win away to Olympiacos in the Europa League.[31] He then hit double figures for assists that season after crossing in for Nketiah in a thrilling 3–2 home win against Everton.[32]

On 1 July 2020, Saka signed a new long-term contract with Arsenal. Head coach Mikel Arteta praised Saka and said: “I think he represents every value that this football club stands for. He has come through the academy, and earned his respect with hard work and accountability and you can see the progression that he is having as a player but as well as a person.” On 4 July 2020, he scored his first Premier League goal for the club against Wolverhampton Wanderers, with a half volley beating goalkeeper Rui Patrício, in a 2–0 win. He was an unused substitute as Arsenal beat Chelsea 2–1 to win their 14th FA Cup. He came third in the vote for the Arsenal Player of the Season award in the 2019–20 season.

2020–2021: Arsenal Player of the Season

On 29 August 2020, Saka was in the starting line-up and registered an assist for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 2020 FA Community Shield, in which 2019–20 FA Cup winners Arsenal clinched a 5–4 penalty shoot-out victory over 2019–20 Premier League winners Liverpool, after the match finished 1–1 after 90 minutes. Saka opened his account for the 2020–21 season on 4 October, scoring in a 2–1 victory against Sheffield United at the Emirates Stadium. On 8 November, Saka turned in Matt Targett‘s cross and scored an own goal in a 3–0 home defeat against Aston Villa.

On 26 December 2020, Saka scored on his 40th Premier League appearance for Arsenal in a 3–1 home win over Chelsea. Due to his performances in December 2020, he later voted as the Arsenal Player of the Month.[42] He was voted as the Player of the Month again in January 2021, having scored three goals and one assist. His goal against West Bromwich Albion was voted as the runner-up of Arsenal’s Goal of the Month.[43][44] Saka was named Player of the Month for the third time in February after contributing one goal and two assists.

On 6 March 2021, Saka made his 50th Premier League appearance for Arsenal in a 1–1 away draw at Burnley; he is the second youngest player in club history to reach that milestone. On 15 April, Saka scored a goal and helped Arsenal to a 4–0 victory over Slavia Prague in the quarter-final of the Europa League. After his fine performance, he was named as the Europa League Player of the Week. He finished the season with seven goals and seven assists in 46 appearances across all competitions, as he was voted Arsenal Player of the Season, having come in third the previous campaign. He was also named in the shortlist for the PFA Young Player of the Season, eventually won by Manchester City’s Phil Foden.

2021–2022: Club top scorer, second Arsenal Player of the Season

Saka scored his first goal of the new campaign in a 6–0 EFL Cup second round win away to West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns in late August. He scored his first Premier League goal of the season in September against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium, whilst also providing an assist for Emile Smith Rowe’s goal in a 3–1 win.[52] On 30 October, Saka made his 100th appearance for Arsenal, marking the occasion with an assist in a 2–0 away win at Leicester City.[53] On 26 December, Saka scored his first brace as Arsenal beat Norwich City 5–0 at Carrow Road. In doing so, Saka became the second youngest player, after Nicolas Anelka, to score 10 Premier League goals for Arsenal.

On 19 March 2022, Saka scored Arsenal’s 2000th Premier League goal in history, as the Gunners defeated Aston Villa 1–0 away at Villa Park As a result of his performances during March 2022, which included two goals and an assist, Saka was nominated for the Premier League Player of the Month award. He scored his tenth Premier League goal of the season (for the first time in his career) on 20 April, in a 4–2 away victory against Chelsea.

Arsenal finished fifth in the Premier League, falling short of UEFA Champions League qualification for the following season.[58] After finishing the season as the club’s top scorer, he was nominated for the Premier League Player of the SeasonPremier League Young Player of the Season and PFA Young Player of the Year.[59][60][61] Saka was named Arsenal’s Player of the Season for a second consecutive season, becoming the first person to retain the award since Thierry Henry won in 2003 and again in 2004.[62]

2022–2023: Title challengers

Saka played a pivotal role for Arsenal during the 2022–23 season, scoring crucial goals and providing assists as Arsenal aimed to win their first Premier League title since 2003–04.[63] On 20 August 2022, he made his 100th Premier League appearance in a 3–0 win at Bournemouth, becoming the second youngest Arsenal player to reach that milestone.[64] He scored first goal of the season in a 3–1 away defeat against Manchester United on 4 September.[65] In their next Premier League match on 18 September, Saka would provide two assists for teammates William Saliba and Fábio Vieira in a 3–0 away victory at Brentford, a result that would sent Arsenal to the top of the table. In October, Saka would score in three consecutive matches for the first time in his career, with a brace against Liverpool on 9 October, and goals against Bodø/Glimt in the Europa League and Leeds United in the Premier League on 13 October and 16 October, respectively.

On 26 December 2022, Saka scored the equaliser in Arsenal’s first match since the conclusion of the World Cup, a 3–1 win over West Ham United. He scored again in their next match against Brighton & Hove Albion, a 4–2 away victory. On 15 January 2023, Saka provided the assist for Martin Ødegaard‘s goal against Tottenham Hotspur as Arsenal sealed their first away league win against their rivals since 2014. A week later on 22 January, Saka scored from long-range in an eventual 3–2 home win over Manchester United. This goal was later voted as Arsenal’s Goal of the Month for January 2023.

On 13 March, Saka received the Men’s Young Player of the Year award at the 2023 London Football Awards. He was then was awarded the Premier League Player of the Month award for March 2023.[78] On 23 May, Saka signed a long-term contract with Arsenal, committing him to the club until 2027.[79][80] At the end of the season, he was nominated for the Premier League Player of the Season, Premier League Young Player of the Season, and FWA Footballer of the Year awards.[81][82][83] Saka was named the PFA Young Player of the Year for the 2022–23 season.

2023–present

Saka warming up for Arsenal in 2023

On 12 August 2023, Saka’s goal helped seal a 2–1 win over Nottingham Forest in Arsenal’s first match of the 2023–24 Premier League season.[85] On 26 August, Saka made his 83rd consecutive Premier League appearance for Arsenal against Fulham, which set a club record.[86] On 20 September, he scored his first Champions League goal and provided an assist in a 4–0 win over PSV on his debut in the competition.[87] On 28 October 2023, Saka captained Arsenal for the first time in a 5–0 home win against Sheffield United.[88] He made his 200th appearance for the club on 5 December in a 4–3 win over Luton Town at Kenilworth Road, becoming the fourth youngest Arsenal player to reach the milestone.[89][90] On 11 February 2024, Saka surpassed 50 goals for Arsenal with a brace in a 6–0 away win over West Ham, becoming the youngest Arsenal player to do so in the Premier League.

International career

Youth career

Saka made his debut for the England national under-16 team on 24 August 2016 as a substitute in a 3–1 away win over Romania in a friendly. He made his first start two days later in a 2–1 defeat to the same opposition in another friendly, in which he scored.[92] Saka was part of the squad for the 2017 UEFA Under-16 Development Tournament, making two appearances as England finished the tournament as runners-up.[92] He finished his under-16 career with six appearances and one goal from 2016 to 2017.[92]

His first involvement with the England under-17 team came in the 2017 FA International Tournament, making his debut on 18 August 2017 in their opening match, a 3–2 home win over Turkey, in which he scored.[93] Saka made one more appearance at the tournament, which England finished as runners-up. He was part of the team for the 2018 Torneio Internacional do Algarve, making two appearances as England ranked in third place.[93] Saka was named in the team for the 2018 UEFA European Under-17 Championship in England, and appeared in all five of the team’s matches at the tournament.[93] England were eliminated 6–5 on a penalty shoot-out by the Netherlands at in semi-final after a 0–0 extra-time draw, although Saka scored his penalty kick in the shoot-out. He made nine appearances for the under-17s, scoring once, from 2017 to 2018.

Saka was part of the England under-18 team for the 2018 Limoges Tournament in France, making his debut in England’s opening match, a 3–0 win over the Netherlands on 5 September 2018.[95] He scored the winning goal with a penalty in England’s 2–1 win over France on 9 September, which saw England win the tournament. England won their three matches at the tournament, with Saka appearing in each match. He went on to finish his under-18 career with one goal from five appearances, all of which came in 2018.

On 14 November 2018, Saka scored on his debut for the England under-19 team in a 4–0 win over Moldova in a 2019 UEFA European Under-19 Championship first qualifying round match in Turkey, which he entered as an 82nd-minute substitute. He made his first start at this level on 20 March 2019, in a 4–1 home win over the Czech Republic in a 2019 European Under-19 Championship elite qualifying round match. Saka scored twice in the match, in the 11th and 56th minute. He made 10 appearances for the under-19s, scoring four goals, from 2018 to 2019.

Senior career

On 4 September 2020, Saka made his only appearance for the England under-21 team when starting a 6–0 victory away to Kosovo in 2021 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualification. On 1 October, Saka was called up to the England senior squad for the first time, and made his international debut as one of the starters in a 3–0 victory over Wales. Having played four times for England, Saka is now tied to England internationally and can no longer represent Nigeria.

Saka was named in the 26-man squad for UEFA Euro 2020. On 2 June, in a friendly against Austria, Saka scored his first senior international goal, the only goal in a 1–0 win.[104] He started in England’s third Euro 2020 group stage match on 22 June against the Czech Republic, and was named the man of the match. On 11 July, in the tournament final against Italy, Saka was brought on as a substitute for Kieran Trippier. Following extra time, Saka was chosen to take the team’s fifth penalty during the subsequent penalty shoot-out, which was his first penalty kick at senior level.[106] Saka’s effort was saved by goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and, as a result, Italy won the shoot-out and the tournament. Saka faced racist abuse online after missing the penalty.[108][109] On 15 July, Saka said that he “knew instantly the kind of hate” he was going to receive after his penalty was saved, adding: “… and that is a sad reality that your powerful platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages”

On 23 September 2022, Saka was named England Men’s Player of the Year for the 2021–22 season ahead of Declan Rice and Harry Kane, becoming the first Arsenal player to win the honour.[111] Saka was named in England’s 26-man squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.[112] He scored twice in a 6–2 victory over Iran in England’s opening match at the tournament[113] and once in England’s 3–0 defeat of Senegal in the round of 16.[114] On 10 December, Saka started in England’s 2–1 quarter-final defeat to France, and was named the team’s man of the match by BBC Sport and L’Équipe.[115][116] On 19 June 2023, he scored his first career hat-trick in a 7–0 home win over North Macedonia in Euro 2024 qualifying.

On 5 September 2023, Saka was named England Men’s Player of the Year for a second successive season having scored seven goals in ten internationals during the 2022–23 season.

Personal life

Saka’s favourite footballer is Thierry Henry and he cites Alexis Sánchez as an influence, saying he even tried to copy Sánchez’s boots when he was an academy player. Among past teammates, Saka said David Luiz helped him the most in his career, saying “he went out of his way” to help a lot of Arsenal youngsters “on and off the pitch”.[119]

Saka is a practising Christian and has said that he reads the Bible every night.[120][121]

In March 2024, Saka launched his own range of peri-peri sauce named ‘Peri-Peri Saka’ at the chicken restaurant Nando’s. Saka spoke of his excitement about the limited edition product: “The sauce mixes sweet, spiciness and smokiness. I love it and can’t wait for everyone to try it. I’ve been going to Nando’s since I was little so to have my own PERi-PERi sauce in every restaurant in the country is quite mad!”[122]

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