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    Wednesday, December 30, 2015

    Ten Things: This Nigerian Probably Got Abramovich To Fire Mourinho

    Former Nigerian international, Mike Emenalo, is one of the most powerful persons in Chelsea, the struggling English premiership side which sacked their coach, Jose Mohurinho, recently.
    Emenalo is the Technical Director of Chelsea and the only member of the club’s board of directors with football experience.
    Now ten things you probably didn’t know about Emenalo and his rise to power:

    10.Emenalo was one of the first African players to play United States college football.
    Emenalo left Nigeria in 1985 to further his studies in the United States. He enrolled at Boston University where he played football as a midfielder during his stay. In recognition of his performance, he was recognised as an “All-American”, one of the best players in top universities. However, because there was no profession football league in the US at the time. He accepted an offer to play in Belgium with Brussels club Molenbeek.
    He later returned to the US after stints in Germany and England and was part of the original allocated players for Major League Soccer, spending two seasons with the San Jose Clash.

    9.He chose a career in football over one in law

    At the Boston University, Emenalo was considered a top student and advised to pursue a career in law.
    His coach at the university, Neil Roberts, was quoted by The Independent in a 2010 article as saying, “When Michael came here he was an exceptional player. He has a great personality – he is a very intelligent person.
    “He was one of the top students in the university and when he finished playing soccer we sat down and looked at his options. There wasn’t a professional league in the States and he had an offer from Belgium (Brussels club Molenbeek) which he took. But he could have gone to law school, too. Academically he was gifted.”

    8.He never played club football at the highest level
    Despite his enormous potential as a footballer, Emenalo never reached the height several of his peers such as Finidi George, Austin Okocha, and Emmanuel Amuneke attained. He had started his career in Enugu with Rangers and appeared 14 times for the Super Eagles, making it to the 1994 World Cup and playing against the legendary Diego Maradona.
    Apart from Molenbeek, he played for Eintracht Trier (Germany), Notts County (England), San Jose Clash (US), Lleida (Spain) under Juande Ramos, and Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) under Avram Grant. These were mainly clubs playing in the lower division.
    7.His wife died in 1996 while pregnant with their second child, leaving him to care for their daughter
    . Emenalo, who has remarried, was in the US with San Jose Clash at the time.

    6.He has maintained a great relationship with all of his coaches

    According to Roberts, Emenalo has maintained a good relationship with his former coaches and left a mark in his time under them.
    The Independent quoted him as saying, “If you look at Michael’s coaches over the years they have always gone back for him. He really is the full package.”
    By the time Juande Ramos was appointed as Tottenham Hotspur’s manager in 2007, he tried to recruit Emenalo as a coach.

    5.Avram Grant brought him to Chelsea
    While Ramos failed to lure Emenalo to Spurs, Avram Grant succeeded that same year in getting him to move to Chelsea as the club’s chief opposition scout. He played that role until he was appointed as the club’s assistant coach under Carlo Ancelloti in 2010.
    In 2011, he was appointed as the club’s technical director, a role which gave him greater access to Abramovich.

    4.He is the only former player and individual with professional football experience on the club’s board
    The other members of the board either have a long personal relationship or business relationship with Abramovich.
    In his role as the club’s sporting director he has also played a major role in shaping Chelsea’s financial and transfer policies, moving the club from one depending mainly on Abramovich’s handouts to one with a more sound business model. This has put the club in a better position to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play policy.

    3.He offered to resign ahead of Mourinho’s return to Chelsea
    In May 2013, as Chelsea finalised talks to bring Mourinho back for a second stint, Emenalo offered to resign as the club’s technical director.
    This was because his influence as the link between the team and the board was considered a possible problem during the talks with Mourinho.
    Emenalo probably watched the drama that played out at Real Madrid between Mourinho and General Director, Jorge Valdano, who was in charge of the club’s transfers.
    A rift between the Portuguese and Valdano – a former Real Madrid player and coach – ended with the Madrid legend being shown the door.
    Announcing Valdano’s dismissal, the club President, Florentino Perez, had said, “Mourinho demanded autonomy on the sporting side like that which works with English clubs. I think for the sake of the institution that this is a reorganisation that has to be done.”
    Abramovich, however, rejected Emenalo’s offer, preferring to keep the Nigerian at the club.
    2.He influenced Abramovich’s decision to sack Mourinho

    Emenalo played a major role in shaping the club’s reaction and eventual decision to axe its former coach. The former Super Eagles player had earned the trust of Abramovich over the years. His rise to the top since joining the club in 2007 as a scout was rapid and so was his influence. In recent months, he has surprisingly granted interviews about the state of the club and the views of the owner. And when Mourinho was fired, he granted an interview on behalf of the club explaining the decision.
    “The fact that Emenalo gave that interview on Thursday, and felt so free to be so critical of Mourinho, speaks volumes about his authority and his confidence at the club,” The Independent wrote in an article on December 19.
    “As technical director at Chelsea, overseeing recruitment at all levels, and with the ear of Roman Abramovich, he is one of the most powerful men in world football.”
    1.He is in “uncharted territory” and fans want him gone

    Emenalo has maintained a low profile in his eight years at Chelsea. Over the years, especially in the last four years, he has avoided criticism for some of the club’s failed transfer dealings. But his emergence in the spotlight, which has highlighted his influence and authority, has also exposed him to scrutiny.
    He didn’t help matters by referring to Mourinho as “the individual” more than once in his interview explaining why the manager had to go.
    Fans loyal to Mourinho are now calling for his head, as his actions somehow give the impression that he didn’t like the Portuguese and used his influence against the beloved coach.
    With a section of the fans screaming for his head, Emenalo’s influence and authority are set to be put to the test.
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