PROMISING UK-based Zimbabwean youth footballer Jimiel Takunda Chikukwa is set for his first professional contract following a successful stint with English Premiership side Leeds United's Academy.
Chikukwa, who turns 18 this Sunday, has been in the Leeds United development structures for the past five years. He is currently the leading goal-scorer for the Leeds Under-18 side, with five goals in 17 appearances.
His father Jimiel Tawanda Chikukwa (Senior) told The Herald from his base in England that his son's academy contract is coming to an end this June and there have been enquiries from across the English Football Association pyramid.
He said his son is looking forward to a new chapter in his football career.
"Jimiel's two-year contract is expiring in June and as we speak there are a number of clubs that have enquired about him to sign up his professional contract. Some of the clubs are in the Premiership, Championship and League One.
"The future looks bright although Leeds Academy has not told him anything about his future with the club. Jimiel has told me he would love to play for Zimbabwe if the call comes. He is also currently involved in the FA Youth Cup and has already got a goal in the match he played," said Chikukwa (senior).
Jimiel was born on April 8, 2003 in UK to Zimbabwean parents - Tawanda and Pascaria Chikukwa. He plays as a left/right winger or central striker.
He has been involved in the Galloway Cup in Ireland, Chisola Cup in Italy and Aspire Academy in Qatar.
"He showed interest in football from an early age as he used to kick about and playing with football in the park and at school with friends," said Chikukwa (senior).
"He then started playing football at primary level in school. In 2010 we started taking Jimiel on weekends to play football and it was then when one of the coaches at Marton Football Club saw him playing and approached us for him to train with Marton.
"He was with Marton for two seasons. In 2012 He joined Awodlley FC and then Catalan, where he developed a lot," said Chikukwa.
Jimiel was also playing football at school and was selected for the Leeds schools team. He was scouted and offered trial with Leeds Academy at one of the Positive Youth Empowerment Soccer Schools organised-matches in 2016.
PYE is the brainchild of UK-based Zimbabwean juniors coach, Dyson Dzapasi.
Jimiel was also offered another trial with Sheffield Wednesday and they were impressed. However, he chose Leeds Academy, and signed as Under-15 player.
He was very impressive in the Under-16 and was top goalscorer with over 26 goals and was given a two-year scholarship in 2019.
In 2020, he was loaned to Carlisle United for a month and scored five goals. They were ready to sign him but he opted to return to Leeds.
According to the Leeds United official media, "Jimiel is a composed forward player with great pace and a trickery! Jimiel scored over 40 goals for the U16s in 2018/19 but had a difficult season last year with injuries, Chikukwa has started preseason well and will be hoping to feature for Leeds Under-23s this season."
And, according to reports from Leeds, the youngster has been tipped to sign a new deal with the club after breaking onto the scene with a series of excellent displays for the under-18 team.
He is currently in his second year as a scholar and is now eligible for a professional contract. Speaking to Football Insider, former Celtic striker Frank McAvennie said that Leeds would be wise to tie him down a long-term contract.
"Anyone who scores five goals in five games is a fantastic player," he said. "It does not matter who you are playing against, that is a hell of a task.
"I definitely think they will get the boy tied down to a new contract. The club would be stupid not to because come January, depending on his agent, he might set up a move to try and earn big money.
"If his agent is in it for the player and has his best interests at heart he will get him to sign a new contract at Leeds. He is doing well and it should just be another stepping stone in his career," said McAvennie.