Since his move from Nigeria’s Premier League side, Bendel Insurance to Belgian club, La Louviere, former Nigerian international, Osaze Odemwingie has gone on to play for six other European clubs. He was released by Stoke City of England penultimate week. Does it mean that 34-year-old Odemwingie should start looking in the direction of China, America or probably the Middle East to play football next season? Kunle Adewale reports
When former Super Eagles striker Osaze Odemwingie signed a one-and-a-half year deal with Premiership side Stoke City, after an uneventful stint with Cardiff City, many saw the move as new lease of life for the Beijing Olympics silver medalist to rediscover his form. But it was not to be, as injury and loss of form characterised his stay at the Potters culminating to his loan to second tier division, Bristol City.
Osaze joined Cardiff at the beginning of 2014/15 season but struggled to find his feet at the Walsh club and following the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the Bluebirds manager, he became immediately out of favour. Osaze was signed by former manager Malky Mackay, who was sacked earlier after a string of poor results.
Keen to arrest Cardiff’s ongoing slide down the Premier League table, Solskjaer decided that he needed to add more firepower to his attack. Subsequently, he decided to sign Stoke City target- man Kenwyne Jones and Osaze was thrown into the package deal agreed between the two clubs.
Having scored only two goals in 17 matches for Cardiff following his £2 million move from West Bromwich Albion in the summer, Osaze knew he needed to improve to force his way into Nigeria’s 2014 World Cup squad and was hoping this switch to Stoke would facilitate that.
After spending the latter part of last season on loan at Bristol City and with his contract with Stoke expiring at the end of this month, the Potters have elected not to renew terms with the former Nigeria international.
According to a statement on their website, Stoke announced that they will not be offering fresh terms to the striker.
With stoke not ready to offer Odemwingie a fresh contract, speculations about his next port of call has been a subject of discussion, with many being of the opinion that it might be another “missionary journey” this time to the Far East, United States or the Middle East, which is generally considered as a retirement haven for players.
Former Nigerian international, Paul Okuku, in a telephone chat with THISDAY from his base in the US, noted that it’s not totally over for the former Bendel Insurance player as far European football is concerned, just as he admitted that age is no more on his side to contend with the physical and tactical nature of European football.
“Though, I have to admit that age is not really on his side and injury has not really helped matters, with determination and right frame of mind he can still play in top flight European football. He however has to be in the right shape to contend with the physicality of European football.
“After all, we’ve seen players play at the highest level at age 35 and above. Gigi Buffon is still playing in the Euro 2016 competition at the age of 38, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is above 34 and still plays actively. So Odemwingie could still play at the top level in Europe if he conditions himself well.
“However, if he feels it’s time to have a stint in the Far East, America or Middle East; it’s still not a bad idea. After all, there are players in the league in these countries that are still representing their countries very well,” Okoku said.
Odemwingie was born in Tashkent, Uzbek, to a Nigerian father (Peter Odemwingie Sr.) and a Russian mother (Raisa), both of whom were then medical students. He moved with his family to Nigeria when he was two years old before returning to Russia to complete his secondary education. Whilst living in Russia, he played in the youth teams at KAMAZ and CSKA Moscow. At the age of 17, he moved back to Nigeria and after spending a short time with amateurs AS Racines Lagos, he became a professional with Nigeria Premier League side, Bendel Insurance.
After an unsuccessful trial with Anderlecht, he signed for La Louviere in 2003 and made his mark by helping the club to win the Belgian Cup in his first season, which also earned the club qualification into the UEFA Cup.
Scoring nine goals in 44 appearances attracted the attention of the French Ligue 1 side, Lille and before long he was a starter in the first team playing for the French side. Famous for his technique and pace, the Nigerian player was monitored by a number of prestigious European clubs.
In 2007, he signed for Lokomotiv Moscow for a reported fee of US$14 million on a four-year contract. In three seasons for Lokomotiv, Odemwingie became the driving force of the attack and one of their most important players. During his time there, he managed 21 goals in the Russian Premier League from 75 games.
In 2010, Odemwingie signed for English Premier League club West Bromwich Albion for an undisclosed fee on a two-year contract, with the option of a third year in the club’s favour. Later in August, it was announced that Odemwingie had signed a new three-year agreement with West Bromwich Albion, after a £4,000,000 bid from Wigan Athletic was turned down by the club.
In 2013, Odemwingie signed a two-year contract with Cardiff City for £2.25 million. Speaking after the move Odemwingie stated that he was eager for a fresh start in his career.
He developed a good relationship with manager Malky Mackay who stated that Odemwingie “is a joy to work with.” However Mackay was replaced with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in January 2014 and Odemwingie fell out of favour.
In January 2014, Odemwingie joined Stoke City on an 18-month contract in a player-exchange with Kenwyne Jones, a move he described as a “step forward”.
A knee ligament injury however ruled him out for most of the season, managing eight appearances. After struggling for playing time with Stoke in 2015-16, Odemwingie joined Championship side Bristol City on loan in March 2016. He played seven times for the Robins scoring twice. He was released by Stoke at the end of the 2015–16 season.
Odemwingie represented Nigeria at the 2004, 2006 and 2008 Nations Cup. In 2008, he was selected as an over-age player for Nigeria at the Beijing Olympic, scoring in the quarter-final against Côte d’Ivoire as the team earned the silver medal after losing the final to defending champions, Argentina,
He captained Nigeria to the 2010 AFCON and when Nigeria bowed out of the competition at the semi-final stage, he was chosen as part of the Best XI of the tournament.
Odemwingie was also part of the Nigeria team to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but dispute with Stephen Keshi cost him a place to the 2013 AFCON, which Nigeria won. He was however named in the team to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which may as well be his last appearance in the colours of Nigeria.