There was a stillness around the City Ground as Burnley took on Nottingham Forest. Packed to the rafters yet silent to a man. It’s too early in the season to be nervous, so one can only put it down to the docile nature of proceedings. Then, bang, a bolt from the blue sparked the game into life. It felt like vintage Barclays.
Luca Koleosho might have just celebrated his 19th birthday, but he’s throwing it back to prime Premier League Years with his aggressive brand of wing play. Born in Norwalk, Connecticut to a Nigerian father and an Italian-Canadian mother, Koleosho left the States in 2016 and made the move across the Atlantic, joining Reus’ academy, where he would spend four years before moving to another Catalan club in Espanyol.
He came off the bench for the final five minutes of their 2021/22 La Liga finale — a 0-0 draw at Granada — before coming off the bench in their first two league matches of the 2022/23 season, but he would not make another appearance in Spain’s top-flight for another nine months, coming off the bench for the final minutes of their 4-2 loss to Barcelona. He was brought on in the 64th minute of the final match of the campaign and gave Espanyol the lead shortly after, only for Adrián Embarba to equalize from the penalty spot in the 87th minute and secure a 3-3 draw for Almería. Espanyol finished 19th, three behind Real Valladolid and four behind Almería, who survived the drop by a point.
Koleosho headed to Malta for the U-19 Euros and played in all five matches as Italy proceeded to win their fourth title, beating Portugal 1-0 in the final, and his impressive performances captured the attention of newly promoted Burnley, who paid £2.6 million plus £860,000 in add-ons and signed the teenager to a four-year contract. The wide man combines star-spangled brashness with eagle-eyed incision. Add to that a footballing education in Spain, and you can tell he’s bilingual the way he’s asking questions of every defender he faces.
He started in each of the Clarets’ first three matches, setting up Lyle Foster’s opening goal in the fourth minute only for Tottenham Hotspur to storm back to a 5-2 win at Turf Moor, setting the stage for his starring role against Nottingham Forest. Bursting to the byline at every opportunity, he sent World Cup winner Gonzalo Montiel for an early bath. The Argentinian full-back was substituted after just 52 minutes for Nuno Tavares, with Callum Hudson-Odoi equalizing at the hour-mark to grab a point for the hosts.
Koleosho has operated on both the right and left sides of attack, playing on the left in their 1-0 loss to Manchester United before shifting to the right flank at St. James Park alongside Aaron Ramsey and Zeki Amdouni in attack as Newcastle prevailed 2-0. Burnley sit 19th — level on 1 point with fellow promoted side Sheffield United — and they will be traveling to Kenilworth Road today for an early relegation six-pointer.
A summer recruit from Espanyol with just 60 minutes of senior football under his belt prior to this season, Koleosho is learning on the job. Progress isn’t linear, but Vincent Kompany has seemingly put his trust in the youngster – only six players have played more minutes than the left winger. Their subdued start to this season needed a spark, and Koleosho has duly provided.
An unknown quantity, Koleosho adds unpredictability to Burnley’s rather pedestrian play, and whilst those around him need to step up, it’s no bad thing to have a player of Koleosho’s rawness to add to the equation. Don’t rush to judgments on this well-traveled teenager, he still has a lot to learn. Just know that when, not if he realises his potential, every Premier League full-back will be ruing the return of the original wing wizards.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Pressinphoto / Icon Sport