During Nigeria’s preparation to the 2018 World Cup, Super Eagles Manager Gernot Rohr was fast to identify that scoring was one area the team would having issues and the searchlight for a potent striker was being turned on Obafemi Martins. But just as the voice for the recall of the former Inter Milan’s marksman was becoming stronger injury knocked him out of what would have been his second Mundial for Nigeria, and ever since his career had nosedived and retirement was looming. It however came as a shock to many that Obagol was signed by Shanghai Shenhua as a replacement for compatriots, Odion Ighalo
Obafemi Martins is arguably one of the most travelled African players –having played in Italy for Reggiana and Inter Milan, in England for Newcastle and Birmingham City, in Germany for Wolfsburg, in Russia for FC Rubin Kazan and in Spain for Levante. In 2013, he move to the United State to play in the Major League and then to China to join the legion of Nigeria players.
“I am not imposing players on Rohr, but I think the likes of Obafemi Martins can help strengthen the defective areas. He is an experienced player and he knows the in and out of Nigeria football,” Joseph Yobo had said of Martins before the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Unfortunately however, Martins’ dream of a second World Cup hit the rock after he ruptured his hamstring playing for his Chinese club in what was expected to last six to seven months, but was taking forever.
The 35-year-old has since been without a club and retirement was surely on the cards.
However, in an unexpected twist, more than two years since his last competitive match, the former Inter Milan star made headlines again and rejoined Shenhua ahead of the 2020 Chinese Super League season which will belatedly start later this month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shenhua did not reveal the details of Martins’ contract in the official statement, but it is widely believed that he has signed a short-term deal after being tasked to fill the boots of his compatriot Odion Ighalo, whose loan deal at Manchester United has been extended until next year. Obafemi Martins is back in football and rejoins the Chinese Super League.
Shanghai Shenhua official website has received huge plaudits since Ighalo swapped Shenhua for United. At the end of last month, he scored his fifth goal for the Premier League powerhouse at Carrow Road, becoming the first United player in 95 years to score in their first four competitive starts.
Martins, meanwhile, netted 32 goals in 59 appearances during his impressive first stint at Shenhua and played an extremely crucial role in helping the club clinch the Chinese FA Cup title in 2017.
He also scored 18 goals for Nigeria before retiring from national duty.
Martins’ arrival will undoubtedly add firepower to Shenhua, who will play their season opener against defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande on July 25.
The 35-year-old striker rejoins the Chinese Super League outfit on a free transfer in the wake of his compatriot’s loan deal extension at Old Trafford having left Seattle Sounders in 2015, Martins scored 32 goals in 59 games across all competitions for the Chinese heavyweights, while playing a key role in the Hongkou Football Stadium giants’ Chinese FA Cup success in 2017.
However, he left the Shanghai-based team in 2018 after suffering a hamstring injury, and has been without a club ever since.
Martins’ return will strengthen Choi Kang-hee men’s attack ahead of the resumption of the Chinese Super League.
The former Super Eagles striker recently told Goal that retirement was not on his agenda despite being without a club since leaving Shanghai in 2018.
“After my career-threatening injury in China, many people advised me to quit, but I told myself I still have a lot to offer the beautiful game,” he told Goal. “Football is my life; I eat, drink and sleep football so I don’t see any reason to call time on something that makes me happy.
“I’m 34, but I feel like a teenager, and with this sensation, I can still play for any big team across the world. I’m thankful for what I have achieved in football but I thirst for more.
“That desire is still there, the desire to score more goals and win more titles. For my next move, I have got offers from the United States, China and Saudi Arabia but I will only move when I see the right bargain.”
After featuring for Reggiana and Inter Milan in Italy, Martins joined Newcastle United in 2006 and helped them win the Intertoto Cup in the same season.
He also represented Wolfsburg, Rubin Kazan, Birminham City and Levante before moving to Seattle Sounders in 2016.
In international football, Martins scored on his Nigeria debut in May 2004, against the Republic of Ireland, and ended his Super Eagles career with 18 goals from 42 appearances.
Martins was a part of the Nigerian team that finished third at the 2006 African Cup of Nations scoring two goals in the competition, both coming against Senegal in the first round.