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Exclusive: Meet Luca Koleosho, Espanyol’s attacking phenom and undecided quadruple international

The ability to choose is often taken for granted in soccer. With the increased prominence of dual nationals in recent years, fans are becoming used to seeing players pick which nationality they want to represent, like Yunus Musah and Folarin Balogun. What’s less common, however, is a player who, before turning 19, not only qualifies for four national teams but has already represented three of them.

Luca Koleosho is a winger for LaLiga side RCD Espanyol and has been playing in Spain for the last eight years. Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, Koleosho’s early life revolved around soccer. Whether it was training or games, he always had a smile on his face and a ball at his feet. 

“I remember just always being relaxed," Koleosho said, "traveling all the way to training, going to tournaments, and really enjoying playing every day.”

He grew up playing futsal and has found the skills he learned during his early career to be valuable, though he’s not entirely sure when it all began. 

“Dang, I was really young now that I think about it. I don’t remember what age I started at, but it really helped me with my close control. Learning how to control the ball under pressure, how to dribble in tight spaces, how to get off your shots and passes really quick. It helped me a lot and it translates to now playing 11v11 on a bigger field.”

"They believed in me and I believed in myself as well."

At the age of ten, Luca participated in a tournament in Spain where he was offered the chance to play abroad. Aware that pursuing this opportunity meant making substantial life changes, he managed to sway his parents and soon, he was off to Catalonia, on his own, following his dream. 

“They were obviously skeptical about it,” Koleosho said, “but they believed in me and I believed in myself as well. I was convinced and I was able to convince them and that's when I made the jump.”

In the aftermath of his move, Koleosho dealt with the harsh reality of living away from his family which forced him to grow up a lot quicker but looking back, he wouldn’t change a thing. 

“You gotta mature faster because obviously, you’re by yourself. You're not with your parents as much so you’ve just gotta learn how to adapt. On the field, it's helped me a lot, development-wise, and I don't regret my decision in coming here.”

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The 18-year-old’s unique career path sets him apart and has allowed him to flourish, using his adaptability, both on and off the field, to his advantage. Growing up in the United States, Luca often played a year up which added a more physical game to his repertoire, but in Spain, he’s learned how to think and play at a much quicker pace.

“If I was to go somewhere else that's more physical, OK, I can adapt to that. I'm used to doing that," Koleosho said. "If I go somewhere where I have to play faster, think faster, I'm used to that as well.”

This versatility has earned the recognition of Italy, Canada and the United States, all of whom Koleosho has already represented at some level.

"Seeing all that and having to decide between those three, it's really hard."

While his pace, dribbling and general expertise on the ball are enough to set the world alight in its own right, Koleosho’s quadruple national eligibility has attracted lots of attention from fans as he prepares to decide which country he will play for. 

Born to a Canadian-Italian mother and a Nigerian father, Luca has already represented three of the four countries before his 19th birthday, but crucially, has not declared his allegiance as of yet. 

"I enjoyed every part of it," Koleosho said. "Going with the U.S., being with those guys. Playing with the Canadian first team, seeing professionals that play for their country, how they represent it how they act, how they treat the young kid that comes in, and how they help guide them through it. Playing for Italy, a national team that's won a lot. Seeing their mentality going into all these games and tournaments. Seeing all that and having to decide between those three, it's really hard."

Though the Espanyol man has not been capped by the red, white and blue officially since his days with the Under-15 national team in 2019, he has been invited to train with the Under-20 squad as recently as last summer during the training camp from April to May. 

Soon after that, Luca was called up for the senior Canadian national team but only practiced with the squad as the camp’s games against Iran and Panama were both canceled. Recently, he was named to the preliminary roster for the Concacaf Nations League Finals, but to play, he would have to apply for a one-time switch in eligibility. 

This is because, in March, he donned the Azzurri for Italy’s U-19 national team, competing for them in UEFA European U-19 Championship qualifiers. Koleosho made his debut for Italy against Slovenia and then started the next match against Belgium. This cap-tied the Connecticut native and means that he can still choose to switch nationalities, but only once. 

“I've had a couple of talks with them [Italy],” Koleosho said through his infectious smile. “Things are looking to be going well, so I'm just looking to continue.”

In the meantime, Luca is focused on the end of his season in Spain. He’s been playing primarily with Espanyol B this campaign, but recently has found his way back into the first-team set-up.

“He’s a young player with a lot of talent and a bright future,” said Espanyol B coach, Luis Blanco. “His attacking characteristics are great for elite football and he always wants to improve.”

It’s this drive that has helped Luca make the jump up to the first team. He made his third appearance of the campaign with a six-minute cameo against FC Barcelona earlier this month and was named to the matchday squads for Espanyol's next three games against Rayo Vallecano, Atlético Madrid and Valencia CF. 

Espanyol will host its final match of the season on Sunday, June 4 at 3:00 a.m. ET against UD Almería, one of six clubs hoping to stave off relegation on the final matchday.

“In ten years, I'll be 28."

Luca is hoping for a successful end to the season in Catalonia, both personally and for the club. At the time of our conversation, he was playing for Espanyol B and specifically mentioned earning promotion with them as a short-term goal, before adding that he wanted to get some minutes with the first team as well. For the future, he’s as optimistic as they come. Shooting for the stars as you would hope for a young man of his age to be. 

“In ten years, I'll be 28," Luca said, seemingly without realizing just how old he makes a person who was born before 2001 feel. "I would be looking to have a Champions League or two under my belt, and having played the two World Cups in that span would be amazing.”

Koleosho’s future is as bright as it is open. Just as a spark will instantly give way to a bonfire, the young winger’s career has only just begun. He sits on the precipice of a tremendously tempestuous time in his life as he makes the leap to permanent first-team soccer, and at the same time, he will be making his final decision regarding which nation he will represent. 

No doubt, there will be comments on social media. There will be stories written speculating about what country he will choose. Fans will rue his name while others will have a new hero to put on the back of their shirts. Such is the nature of these moments. But one thing must be clear. The decision belongs to Luca and to Luca alone, and he’s completely comfortable with that.

“You gotta go with your intuition and just be happy and confident with whatever decision you make because once you make it, there's no going back from that.”

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