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Euro 2020: How Bukayo Saka went from straight A student to teaching the Czech Republic a lesson

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There might not be a more popular man of the moment in the England squad than the latest, Bukayo Saka.

‘Too happy for this guy,’ Jadon Sancho posted on Instagram, reflecting on Saka’s thrilling man-of-the-match display against the Czech Republic.

‘You deserve everything brother,’ Declan Rice added. 

Bukayo Saka showcased his talent as he starred in England's win over the Czech Republic

Bukayo Saka showcased his talent as he starred in England’s win over the Czech Republic

‘He’s tough, funny, gets on with everyone. I’m buzzing for him,’ match-winner Raheem Sterling said.

Such genuine joy at his success would have been felt by almost anyone who has encountered Saka.

The 19 year-old, the first Three Lions teenager to start a Euros game since Wayne Rooney in 2004, is England’s humble hero.

The wide-ranging abilities of the versatile teenager player have become increasingly clear since he broke into Arsenal’s first team in 2018.

He carried them at times last season despite his tender years and was unsurprisingly named their player of the season this month. 

Saka was England's standout player and got huge praise from his team-mates for his display

Saka was England’s standout player and got huge praise from his team-mates for his display

What also helps makes him so popular and likeable is that there no big ego to match the size of his considerable talent. In fact, quite the opposite.

Speak to anyone about Saka and it will not be long before his down-to-earth nature, the fact that he takes everything in his stride, is a great kid and the role his parents have played in his upbringing and instilling the right values, get mentioned.

Indeed on Wednesday, just a few hours after his big night at Wembley and while the praise continued to pour in, for Saka it was a new day and he was already focussing on what is next.

At Arsenal, Saka, 19, is described as a breath of fresh air. He is also a perfect poster boy for their academy.

At times he has left staff questioning if it is really possible for someone to have it all?

Saka might just as not only is he a model player but model student and person too. 

The Arsenal ace's versatility and professionalism has caught the eye of Gareth Southgate

The Arsenal ace’s versatility and professionalism has caught the eye of Gareth Southgate

Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit Saka surprised club staff by volunteering to help out with some of the club’s community activities.

Off his own back, Saka was keen to set up a call with the club and his parents to see how they could be of assistance and aid Arsenal’s work in the local area.

The pandemic, which has affected what the club can do, has hit those plans for now but Saka has let them know he remains keen for those discussions to still go ahead so he can get involved when the time is right.

That gesture is a sign of the pride Saka has in representing Arsenal.

He joined the club aged seven, was always one of the best players of his age for club and country with Saka and Manchester City’s midfielder Tommy Doyle the two tipped for big things by FA staff.

Arsenal coaches loved him while his natural ability made him stand out to seasoned youth football watchers remember a young Saka’s effortless style and the way he glided around the pitch. 

The 19-year-old has become a key player for Arsenal and is loved by coaches at his club

The 19-year-old has become a key player for Arsenal and is loved by coaches at his club

Saka joined Arsenal as a seven-year-old and is the perfect poster boy for their academy

Saka joined Arsenal as a seven-year-old and is the perfect poster boy for their academy

Saka was so talented that he was relied on coming through the Arsenal ranks as he has been at times in the first team.

Also needed for England youth duty, on occasions there were concerns about him suffering burnout. Physically as well as technically, though, he could cope.

Despite a top level professional career being almost inevitable that did not stop the value of education being impressed on Saka.

And his efforts balancing school – travelling from Greenford High School, Ealing, to Arsenal almost every night to train – with football paid off when he left with four A*s and three As in his GCSEs.

Saka has cited Freddie Ljungberg, among others, as one of his influential coaches, especially in those earlier days.

The Swede, who first worked with him aged 14, will no doubt have felt on Tuesday how some of Saka’s England team-mates did.

SofaScore's graphic shows how Saka was a threat in both boxes on Tuesday night at Wembley

SofaScore’s graphic shows how Saka was a threat in both boxes on Tuesday night at Wembley

Saka recently sought out Unai Emery to thank him for giving him his chance at Arsenal

Saka recently sought out Unai Emery to thank him for giving him his chance at Arsenal

‘He is a kid that you feel so happy when he does well, because he deserves it,’ Ljungberg said in March.

It was Unai Emery who Saka has to thank for handing him his Arsenal debut.

And after Emery’s Villarreal knocked Arsenal out of the Europa League and amid the disappointment, Saka did not forget.

He made a point of asking for Emery’s whereabouts, locating the Spaniard and patiently waiting for him to finish his media duties so they could speak.

That was another indication of the respectful, well-mannered personality Saka possesses as a result of his upbringing by his biggest influence, his family.

Saka is also deeply religious and always credits God for any success he achieves. 

Saka has a well-mannered personality and is one the most popular members in England squad

Saka has a well-mannered personality and is one the most popular members in England squad

Those who watched Saka's rise will be delighted for him, but this is only just the beginning

Those who watched Saka’s rise will be delighted for him, but this is only just the beginning

Those who have watched his rise salute Saka him too. When he broke into the first team and would have been forgiven for being tired and heading home after a hard days’ training it was noted how willing he was to spend extra time with Arsenal’s analysts in one-to-one sessions, assessing his game and where he could improve.

Rather than grumble at being moved from position to position as some might, Saka similarly uses every new opportunity as another chance to develop and continue his education as a player.

His ability to shine wherever deployed, given the number of different roles he has been handed, and make any position look like it might be his best is almost unique.

Despite all the plaudits coming his way Saka remains endearingly unaffected by it all and understands he is still just starting out.

Where he will end up is a hugely exciting prospect for both Arsenal and England.

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