Eberechi Eze of Crystal Palace runs with the ball during a Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Crystal Palace attacking midfielder Eberechi Eze has disclosed that he picked up a lot of his footballing skills from watching Brazilian icon Ronaldinho.
The England under-21 international who has been tipped to someday feature for the full England side is highly sought-after by Nigeria.
So skilful is Eze that many have compared him to Nigerian legend Jay-Jay Okocha. But the Greenwich-born footballer has disclosed that it is one of Okocha’s protégés who has influenced his playing style and made him the Premier League footballer he has become.
“We would come home from school, go on the computer and just type in Ronaldinho,” said Eze, in an interview with England’s Daily Mail. “He’s a player I have watched pretty much every day from maybe the age of seven, eight, with my brothers on the computer watching YouTube videos and whatever he is doing.
“The same videos over and over again on Ronaldinho and how he played. There’s probably not a video of him you could show me that I haven’t seen before. Even now I type in Ronaldinho and watch him. That’s how much impact he’s had on me. He was an inspiration.”
Brazil and Barcelona legend Ronaldinho, who was Okocha’s protégé at French side Paris Saint-Germain, has never hidden his admiration for the former Nigeria captain. The 2005 FIFA World Player of the Year recipient, during the 2017 FIFA Congress in Bahrain, went as far as tweeting a photo of himself, posing alongside Okocha and Colombian legend Carlos Valderrama with the words: “Only No10 shirt I’ve always admired. Okocha and Valderrama.”
The influence of the Brazilian icon combined with his upbringing in south London’s unique cage football system is clear to see in the player Eze has become – a joy to watch, effortless and at ease on the ball and capable of moments of magic.
“Growing up watching Ronaldinho he is the perfect example of an entertainer,” Eze continued. “Of course I don’t play the same as him or anything like that but it is just having that idea of ‘I want to enjoy myself.’
“And while I’m enjoying myself, I’m positive I will be entertaining people as well while also being as effective as I can as a footballer for my team.
“There are things, in terms of the way you’re brought up, the resilience you get from playing in the cage, from experiencing different things that it numbs the feeling of someone else’s opinion on you.
“I play football because I have fun doing it and I’m so grateful I have got this as a job. That for me is the most important thing.
“As long as I’m enjoying it, the stats and all that type of stuff will come as well.”