Who is Ademola Lookman, the man who destroyed Xabi Alonso's Bayer in Europa League final, and what Pep Guardiola has to do with him?

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Who is Ademola Lookman, the man who destroyed Xabi Alonso's Bayer in Europa League final, and what Pep Guardiola has to do with him?

On 22 May 2024, Ademola Lookman woke up with a specific goal in mind — end Bayer Leverkusen's unbeaten run and win the Europa League for his team Atalanta. But maybe even in his wildest dreams he couldn't imagine scoring a hat-trick against an opponent that didn't know a defeat in over a year.

So who is the London-born Nigerian who plays for an Italian team that dealt a historic upset to a German one?

If you're a Premier League fan, you may have heard of Lookman. The same goes if you're a Man City fan. If you're an Everton fan, you should know the name. But all in due course.

Ademola Lookman was born in London, so little wonder he made his debut for Charlton Athletic, a London-based team. Already back then he was considered a big talent and represented England at various youth levels. He scored three goals for the England U-20 side that won the 2017 FIFA Youth World, playing a full 90 minutes in the final.

No wonder Everton were willing to pay £7.5m in January 2017 for a lad with no Premier League experience. Ronald Koeman was building an attractive Toffees side and saw potential in Lookman as one who could actually be useful right here right now despite his young age.

It couldn't be more right because the fans were treated to a show in game one.

As Everton were leading Pep Guardiola's Man City 3-0 at home, Koeman brought the young striker on for the added time of the second half. Within three minutes, Ademola found the net with a precise finish, making it 4-0. To this day, it remains Guardiola's heaviest Premier League defeat.

"It was an amazing feeling to score against Manchester City," he told The Independent. I can’t really describe it. But I need to kick on from that - I want to have 100 more moments like that in my career."

But before a second moment like that would happen, Lookman had to wait long. Koeman shifted the young player from his natural position up front or behind the main striker to the wing. As a result, that goal against Man City remained his only in 36 appearances for the Toffees in the Premier League.

But the talent was ever-present, which is why RB Leipzig showed interest in January 2018. And look what happened — in 11 games on loan in Germany, our protagonist bagged five goals, and now Leipzig wanted him on a permanent deal.

€18m was enough, but in his formally second spell at the club, Lookman scored a grand total of zero goals. He often found himself on the bench and struggled to prove himself in the few minutes he had available.

Another loan followed, this time to Fulham, and Lookman was quite decent, registering four goals and as many assists in the Premier League.

Still, he found himself in a strange place: not quite needed at his parent club but occasionally shining on loan. That was when his current team Atalanta stepped in.

Gian Piero Gasperini knows a thing or two about football, so he recognised quality in the striker: "He has technique, pace and he is a player any coach would be happy with. We realised pretty quickly what he was capable of, he was convincing from the start."

The trust of the head coach and a fresh start were needed and the results didn't take long to emerge. Lookman scored on his debut and shortly after had a streak of 11 goals in 12 games.

On fire but aware of his tiny prospects with England, in February 2022 Lookman switched allegiance to Nigeria, the country he is eligible to represent through his parents.

In the winter of 2023, the now-Nigerian was in Ivory Coast for the African Cup of Nations, scoring in the Round of 16 (twice) and quarterfinals. Nigeria lost the final to the hosts, but Ademola remained one of the top scorers of the tournament.

Aged 26, Lookman is hitting his prime. With the Europa League trophy in the bag, he has finally won a club trophy and is valued at €30m by Transfermarkt, though he is probably worth more to his club.

In December 2023, the Daily Mail reported on the Premier League interest in Ademola Lookman. Though the report did not specify which clubs wanted the striker (how about Everton 2.0?), it's not surprising clubs are eyeing the 26-year-old.

Ademola's contract expires in 2026, so this summer could be decisive for his future. Don't be surprised to see him back in England this summer—even if staying at Atalanta is an amazing option, too.

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