Trying to make a name for yourself at a big club is one thing, doing it when you’re an academy product is something else.
There have been hundreds of tales of players not making it at the big club and their footballing journey ending there, but sometimes some carry on to live their dream of being a professional player and eventually make a name for themselves somewhere where the fans love them and can’t believe they got so lucky to have such a talent, and for MK Dons fans, that player is Chuks Aneke.
Before the striker became a star for the Dons, Aneke was a promising midfielder at Arsenal.
Having joined the club at age seven, the Newham-born player was seen as a player with immense potential, so much so that Arsene Wenger compared the midfielder to Yaya Toure.
Although the former England youth international impressed out on his numerous loan-spells whilst at Arsenal, playing for the likes of Stevenage, Preston North End and Crewe, Aneke was still unable to win that first-team spot for the Gunners despite making over 80 appearances in League One.
Aneke would only go on to make one appearance for the Arsenal first-team, making a 90th-minute appearance against Shrewsbury Town in the League Cup in a 3-1 win for the Gunners in the 2011/12 season, and in June 2014, the midfielder was released by the club.
It didn’t take long for the then 20-year-old box-to-box midfielder to find a new club, as, in the same month of his release from Arsenal, Aneke was signed by Belgian side Zulte Waregem on a three-year deal.
Two years of first-team football in Belgium that saw Aneke make 50 appearances for Waregem caught the eyes of teams back in England, however, a long-term knee injury had kept the midfielder out of the game for close to a year, but that didn’t stop MK Dons from taking the risk and signing the former Arsenal man in the summer of 2016.
And it was a gamble that has paid off massively for the Dons. Although Aneke didn’t return to first-team football until late-November, the midfielder impressed massively for his new club, making 18 appearances.
Although MK were relegated in the 2017/18 season, the club have immediately returned to League One thanks in large to Aneke, who has been one of the best players in the division, who has thrived in the centre forward role, hitting 17 goals in 38 league appearances this season.
Arsenal have been crying out for a box-to-box midfielder since the Patrick Vieira years, and Aneke has shown that the club have missed out on a trick with a player who is now dominating in the lower leagues.
Arsenal fans, were the club wrong to release Aneke? Let us know!
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