England manager Gareth Southgate has lavished praise on Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka.
The 21-year-old has announced himself as one of Europe’s standout players this season, leading Arsenal’s Premier League title charge and performing incredibly well at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The road to global stardom hasn’t been easy for Saka, who drew the attention of Kim Kardashian earlier this week following a visit to the Emirates Stadium.
After missing a crucial penalty in England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy, Saka – along with Manchester United duo Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho – was subjected to a torrent of racist abuse.
“The key for us in the last couple of tournaments has been there was that [racist] outpouring towards Bukayo, Marcus and Jadon in the initial aftermath but then that tide turned and it was hugely important, because I think if the players hadn’t felt that warmth, they might always be worried about what might go wrong with England, like some of us in the past have realised,” Southgate said in an interview with the Daily Mail.
When asked to discuss Saka specifically, Southgate said: “People find themselves doing what I’ve just done, you start to smile.
“Because that’s what he brings to you, you know? You feel a warmth. You feel a fabulous human who has broken into the team at a time they weren’t playing so well – and excelled. And now they are pushing for the title – and he’s excelling again.
“Bukayo recovered from the obvious setback with us, he has the warmth of the fans with him who can see what he’s about, can see the genuine nature of his personality.”
Saka will reconvene with the England squad for the March internationals following Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace on Sunday.