Arnaut Danjuma Groeneveld burst to prominence just weeks ago with a cracking goal in the UEFA Champions League for Belgian outfit Club Brugge, attracting the attention of Netherlands national team coach Ronald Koeman.
The 21-year-old now finds himself in the Dutch squad and on the brink of his debut.
His first call-up arrived last Friday when he was picked in the squad for the UEFA Nations League clash against Germany in Amsterdam on Saturday and then the friendly against World Cup semifinalists Belgium in Brussels next Tuesday.
Should he play against the Germans in what is a competitive fixture, he will be lost to Nigeria, who look to be behind in the race to secure the attackers’ international status.
“If I had not chosen to play for Oranje then I wouldn’t be here,” he told reporters in the build-up to Saturday’s derby against the Germans. “From the first moment I joined up with the squad it is clear to me who I want to play for.
Groeneveld, whose father is Dutch, was born in Lagos.
“My brother and sister dress like Africans, my mother is a real African woman. We eat Nigerian food, listen to music and I’ve been there before. African culture is something I’m very comfortable with.”
When he made the move in July from NEC Nijmegen in the Dutch league on a four-year deal to the Belgian champions, he changed the name on the back of his shirt from Groeneveld to Danjuma.
“The name Danjuma is my second name, a Nigerian name. It means I was born on a Friday. But because I now use the name it has nothing to do with my nationality,” he explained.
Club Brugge had gone back to Nijmegen to find a replacement for Anthony Limbombe, whom they sold to French club Nantes, and were impressed with Groeneveld’s 13 goals and 17 assists in the Eredivisie last season.
Just a year earlier PSV Eindhoven had come calling and taken him from his hometown club TOP Oss.
“But I played just 23 minutes in their reserve team and never got a contract offer. Why did it not work out? A combination of factors. Sometimes because of the coaches and also some injuries. I’m someone with his own mind and some coaches want you just to do exactly what they want. I’ve always walked my own path.”
In Belgium he has quickly evolved into a fan favourite with his pace and power. And the goals against Atletico Madrid helped even further.
“My call-up is a surprise but maybe not. I think I’ve had an excellent period recently and I see it as a reward. It’s the fulfilment of a dream but also a logical step, it’s a podium where you want to show your craft as a player.
“I’ve always had confidence in myself that I would get to the international arena,” Groeneveld added.