His four goals at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations was crucial to Nigeria’s winning the biennial competition for the third time. As a result, some observers thought a striker that would fill the vacuum left by Super Eagles all-time highest goal scorer, Rashidi Yekini, had finally arrived. It was not to be, as Emmanuel Emenike’s career nosedived tremendously. His involvement in many controversies with his various clubs did not help matters. In 2015, he announced his retirement from the national team after just five years stint. Last week, Turkish side, Olympiakos announced the signing of Emenike. Kunle Adewale asks if his move to Greece could help revive his dwindling career
Emmanuel Emenike’s first “missionary journey to Turkey” with Fenerbahce was more memorable for its controversies than anything of value. He was accused of match-fixing, though later released without charge. In his second stint with the Turkish side, he was very unpopular with the club’s supporters largely due to his poor performance, scoring only four goals in 27 appearances. Things came to a head that he once stormed off the field after he was abused by his own fans, culminating in a move to UAE side, Al Ain on loan.
However, Emenike last week joined Greek champions, Olympiakos from Fenerbahce, after signing a two-year deal and a fee said to be about $2.8 million. After struggling with injuries and a lack of first-team football last season, Olympiakos provides him with a platform that includes the European Champions League next season.
“I know there are big expectations from the fans and club, but I am ready. I’ve joined the most successful club in Greek football and I want to give my best for the team,” the 30-year-old told BBC Sport.
The former Super Eagles striker is the sixth Nigerian player to sign for Olympiakos of Greece, following in the footsteps of Rashidi Yekini, James Obiorah, Haruna Babangida, Michael Olaitan and Brown Ideye.
Between the summer of 2009 and 2012, the forward averaged over 14 league goals per season with Karabukspor and Spartak. During the 2013-14 campaign, he managed 12 goals in 28 league outings for Fener, but in 2014, despite making only one league outing less, he contributed only four goals.
After a memorable display against Bosnia-Herzegovina at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he drove down the left flank, leaving defenders in his wake before setting up Osaze Odemwingie’s pivotal winner, Emenike went on 15 international matches without a goal. Late coach Stephen Keshi had to drop Emenike, who previously would have been the first name on the list.
The question on the lips of observers is whether Emenike’s move to Greece could really revive his career.
Former Nigerian international, Waidi Akani, sees a lot of sense in Emenike’s move to Olympiakos.
In a chat with THISDAY on telephone, Akani said, “I think he was just trying to get a break from Fenerbahce. Once a player is not wanted in a club and he has a high price tag on him there is always the need to move and that is what I think he did by moving to Greece. He has to go somewhere for a break and after a year or two, if his game improves, he can always stage a comeback to the main stream of European football.
“Emenike can still stage a comeback to the national team. There are lots of examples of players that had made some move to revive their career and still got national team calls. A good example is Asamah Gyan, who is still a dependable player for the Black Stars of Ghana. It all depends on the player’s current form and the number of minutes he gets to play. It’s better for him to have regular playing time at Olympiakos than being a bench warmer at Fenerbahce. It’s a right move for him and from there he can re-lunch himself and his career.”
Respected Turkish journalist, Kadir Onur Dinker of Milliyet, indeed advised the Greek champions to employ a psychologist who will closely monitor Emenike due to his frequent conflicts with teammates, coaches and fans.
”He also faced some problems with the Nigerian Federation, so he had to withdraw from the national team though he is young.
“In general, I can say that he is a very sensitive character that is psychologically affected. For me, Olympiakos should hire a psychologist to watch him in order to be focused. If he has good relationships with his teammates and fans, he can be the best player in the Greek league. Personally I like his dynamic attacking style, like Drogba and I hope he will succeed in Olympiakos,” Kadir told gazzetta.gr.
Emenike made 93 appearances in all competitions during his time at Fenerbahce scoring 25 goals.
He came to limelight when he was invited to the national team for a friendly game against Sierra Leone. Thereafter, he was called up to Nigeria’s 23-man squad for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and scored in the opening match against Burkina Faso in a 1–1 draw. He also scored the first goal in the quarter final match between Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire which Nigeria won 2–1.