When the message from the Football Association arrived this time, it’s likely Eberechi Eze experienced a flashback—a rather painful one—to what he calls “the biggest test” he has ever faced. And that test was a significant one.

Before the last European Championship in 2021, Eze received a message informing him that he was on Gareth Southgate’s preliminary list of players for the tournament. It was Eze’s first recognition at the senior England level. However, he had just been assisted off the Crystal Palace training field due to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Reflecting on this trauma, and recalling how he was released by Arsenal, Fulham, Reading, and Millwall as a teenager—Millwall being the final cut after his second year as a scholar—Eze is candid about it all.

But when Eze found out on May 21 that he was included in Southgate’s provisional 33-man squad for Euro 2024, his focus was forward-looking. The 25-year-old had effectively outshone Marcus Rashford, among others, in the fierce competition for attacking positions behind the striker.

Eze’s preference over players like Jack Grealish and James Maddison highlights the exceptional season he’s had and his unique talent. Few in the Premier League can beat a man from a standstill like Eze, who seems to float as he bursts past opponents.

“I try my best to let go of stuff that has happened before, try not to focus too much on it,” Eze says. “When I got the text this time it was just gratitude. Every opportunity I get I’m determined to take. That was the main emotion for me.”

When asked if he feels the need to overcome any demons from the last Euros, he responds, “Not really. I just want to enjoy this opportunity. I see it as the hard work I’ve put in has got me here. I’m ready to give my all. Enjoy the moment—don’t look back.”

Despite his setbacks, Eze is thriving at Crystal Palace, attracting interest from rival clubs like Tottenham, and is poised to make an impact at the Euros, where Southgate will heavily rely on his substitutes or “finishers.”

Eze sees his Achilles injury as “part of the journey, part of the story.” He recalls how difficult it was to watch the previous Euros, overthinking about what might have been.

During his rehabilitation, Eze sought advice from many sources, learning about different recovery timelines. He was particularly inspired by Russian gymnast Artur Dalaloyan, who returned from an Achilles rupture in three months to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

“My mindset was whatever he’s been doing, I’m going to do that as well,” Eze says. “I returned to full training in four and a half months, then started coming off the bench after six months. It was tough, but I don’t think I’d have the mentality I have now without an experience like that.”

Reflecting on his teenage releases from various clubs, Eze considers it an extraordinary oversight by those who failed to see his potential. “I got: ‘Not really working hard enough.’ Or: ‘Not really suiting the style of play of a club,’” he recalls. “I don’t fully understand the reasons why. It wasn’t explained clearly. But I don’t look back and think: ‘I didn’t deserve that.’ They tried to make a decision and got some wrong.”

QPR, however, saw his potential. After Millwall released him, QPR offered him a one-year contract in 2016. A successful loan to Wycombe in League Two followed, and upon his return to QPR, his career took off. The £19.5m move to Crystal Palace in 2020 was a significant step, and now Eze dreams of making an impact at the Euros, aiming to add to his four caps.

Reflecting on his journey, Eze recalls a specific game for Wycombe—a 1-0 defeat at Accrington Stanley on a cold Tuesday night in November. “I remember that!” he says.

“There are tough moments along the journey, but one thing I’ve always had is faith. I know that God is there and he’s working for me. I always try to appreciate how far I’ve come. It’s a big difference from Accrington Stanley to where I am now.”