Mirror newspaper in the UK has reported that Arsenal star and England international Bukayo Saka has tripled his number of followers on Instagram following an outpouring of support from the Euro 2020 final.
The 19-year-old saw his decisive fifth penalty kick saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma in the nail-biting shootout at Wembley on Sunday evening.
Saka’s spot kick was comfortably stopped by the Italian goalkeeper as England’s hopes of winning a first major tournament in 55 years disappeared in front of a home crowd.
It was painful professional moment for Saka and was followed by a deluge of online racial abuse directed towards the teenager, who was one of three England players to be thwarted from the spot.
Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho also failed to convert their penalties prior to Saka’s effort, with all three players of the Three Lions the subject of racial abuse over social media companies and beyond.
Saka was only given the opportunity of salvaging England’s hopes in the shootout after Jordan Pickford produced a magnificent save from Italy’s Jorginho as Gareth Southgate’s side hung on to their place in the tournament.
The shootout saw five of the 10 penalty kick takers fail to convert from their efforts and the decision to allow a teenager to take the decisive fifth effort for England has come under criticism.
The versatile Gunners star was a substitute in the final having starred in the tournament – starting the knockout stage victories over both Germany and Denmark.
Saka had been deployed in the right-hand side of a three-man attack for Southgate’s team with his performances praised both due to his attacking output and also his defensive effort of tracking back forward runs from opposition full-backs.
The teenager provided the assist for England’s equalising semi-final goal against Denmark; his run and cross was inadvertently directed into his own net by Danish captain Simon Kjaer.
Saka has already clocked up 88 first-team appearances for Arsenal – scoring 11 goals for the club – and has become an increasingly important member of Mikel Arteta’s first team squad.
His international heartache not only led to online abuse but also a wave of support, which has been reflected by his booming social media following.
Saka’s pre-tournament following on his Instagram account stood at 700,000 – but that number has tripled to just over 2.1million in the aftermath of the final.
Arsenal boss Arteta told Sky Sports News he has now concerns over Saka following his saved penalty: “Yes, I have. We all have, I think, spoken to him, sent messages.
“He will be fine. He is such a strong character. He has received a lot of love and support from world football, not only with Arsenal but the national team and all the English fans because he doesn’t deserve anything like [what] he has been through.
“He has had a phenomenal season.
“In football, you want to be part of the greatest, you have to know today, at 19, that you lose more than you win unfortunately in this game and there are no exceptions to that rule.”