Today we track a little-known Nigerian footballer in the name of Michael Emenalo.
Michael Emenalo began his football career at Enugu Rangers in 1985 as a replacement for Christian Chukwu before traveling to the United States of America where he played for Boston University from 1986 to 1989. He was given an option to study law or play football at the Boston University but he chose football. From there, he played for Molenbeek in Belgium, Eintracht Trier in Germany and Notts County F.C. in England before relocating to the United States of America.
At USA, he was allocated to Major League Soccer and played with the San Jose Clash. After spending two seasons with the US club, he departed for Spain where he played for Lleida and later, ended his career at Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel. Emenalo endured a journeyman football career mostly playing in six countries like Nigeria, USA, England, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Israel.
As an International, Michael played for the Super Eagles and did it for fourteen times. Many wonder till today if he ever played for Super Eagles. In short, he was fully involved with the Super Eagles during the 1994 FIFA World Cup; apart from the first game of the tournament he missed through injury, he played the rest of the matches against Argentina, Greece and Italy.
Retiring from active football in 2000 after turning out for Israeli club, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Emenalo returned to the United States where he eventually joined the Tucson Soccer Academy as director of player development in 2006. But with Chelsea appointing Avram Grant, his former coach at Maccabi Tel Aviv, as their manager, Emenalo was brought in as Chelsea’s chief opposition scout, a role he held till 2010 when he replaced Ray Wilkins as Chelsea’s assistant coach.
Emenalo landed his big break twelve months later, as he rose to become the club’s technical director; a role that thrust him into being charge of overseeing recruitment strategy and shaping the club’s playing personnel. In fact, Emenalo as a technical director helped Chelsea change their financial model to suit UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rule which prevented clubs from spending beyond their revenue margins.
Inevitably, his role demanded constant interaction with Roman Abramovich, something which made him a prominent member of Chelsea’s board, coupled with the fact that he was the only member with tangible football experience.
During his time at the club, Chelsea became very successful in terms of trophies for Senior (3 EPL titles, FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League Cup and Europa League Cup) and Youth (Champions League) teams and, buying, loaning and selling great players.
After ten years at Chelsea, he left for Monaco where he briefly worked as technical director before he was relieved of his duties beginning of this year. While little can be said of Michael Emenalo as a footballer, little cannot be said of him as a football administrator.