Who is Michael Kayode? Super Eagles-eligible defender linked with Arsenal transfer

Michael Kayode has been on a steady rise in the last few years, one that has seen him leap from Italian club football's fourth tier to the top flight and emerge as one of the stars of his age group in Europe.

The 19-year-old, who started out as a junior at Juventus, now plays for Serie A side Fiorentina, where his performances have caught the eye of suitors across the continent, notably Arsenal, who have reportedly sent scouts to watch him with a view to a potential move in the summer for a fee said to be between €12million and €15million.

With one goal and four assists in all competitions to his name this season, Kayode certainly fits the mould of the kind of full-back that Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta loves.

The Gunners do not have an immediate need for a starter in that position, as Ben White is performing at a standard certainly fitting for a side currently chasing Premier League and UEFA Champions League glory.

Michael Kayode @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

Behind White, though, are Takehiro Tomiyasu and Cedric Soares, who Arsenal fans have simply not seen enough of to trust they'd deliver at the same level if called on in case of contingency.

Kayode, then, would be as much one for the future as he'd be useful while he adapts to life and football in England.

Will Kayode follow in Udogie's path?

That route wouldn't be uncharted territory for a Nigerian-Italian full-back, after Destiny Udogie signed for Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2022 before physically making the move to Arsenal's North London rivals a year later after continuing on the books of the selling club, Udinese, on loan.

It remains to be seen whether Arsenal would think favourably of striking such a deal for Kayode, or whether, indeed, Fiorentina would be minded to sell the defender at all.

Andrea Ritorni, Kayode’s agent, suggests his client is enjoying life at the Artemio Franchi Stadium and is in no great haste to depart for greener pastures domestically or even overseas.

“Fiorentina need not worry,” Ritorni is quoted to have said.

“There is a contract that speaks for him: Michael is doing well with this club and in this team. Of course, various Premier teams follow him and have followed him, but this is normal, it’s part of football and life. However, Fiorentina has secured him with a nice contract and many bonuses. Let's think about doing well now and in the future for the purple shirt.”

As mentioned earlier, Kayode has quietly blossomed as one of football's brightest prospects, but it was at last year's UEFA European Under-19 Championship that he made his biggest splash, scoring the only goal in the final that made Italy champions for the fourth time, at the expense of overwhelming favourites Portugal.

Italy beckons for Kayode, but Nigeria lurk

Kayode has since stepped up to the U-21s, and if he continues to progress at this rate, it wouldn't be long before he catches the eye of Luciano Spalletti, the senior Italy coach who has shown a willingness to consider youth ahead of experience as he builds a team for the upcoming European Championship — where the Gli Azzurri have a title to defend — and beyond.

One would imagine, though, that the other country Kayode is eligible to represent, Nigeria, also covet his talents, potentially tempting him into switching allegiance in favour of the Super Eagles.

The 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) finalists, however, do not have a manager now, following the recent departure of Portuguese trainer Jose Peseiro, and would probably want to get that bit sorted before attending to add to their ranks of foreign-born/bred players.

Clearly, both at club and international level, Kayode is a lad who's got eyes on him, and the future looks very bright on both fronts.

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Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu, a Ghanaian sports journalist, brings a dynamic perspective to the field with over a decade of experience. Having contributed to esteemed platforms such as Kickgh.com and Inkandkicks.com. Godfred is recognised for his insightful commentary and in-depth analysis of African football.
His passion for storytelling and commitment to accuracy have established him as a trusted authority in sports journalism in Ghana, captivating audiences with his engaging narratives and unparalleled expertise.
Godfred holds a degree in Integrated Development Studies (Social and Development Administration option) from the University for Development Studies, Ghana.