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Player Focus: The Impact of Innocent Emeghara

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Player Focus: The Impact of Innocent Emeghara

 

Football managers could be forgiven for thinking they work in the film industry these days. Like members of the Academy and BAFTA they're sent thousands of screeners to review. It's just that the stacks of DVDs they receive either come from the club's performance analysis department or agents looking to get one of their players a move. 

 

Watching them all would be impossible. In Italy and many other countries, there's someone else for that. 

 

A director of sport will instead take it upon himself to go to the club's in-house cinema, usually his office or failing that a dark room in the basement converted with this in mind. He'll slip the DVD into the TV or computer and sit back, his only company a pad of paper, not a box of popcorn. After watching one montage after another, he'll then decide which players to follow up on. A scouting mission might then be organised and a recommendation made to the manager. 

 

And so it was Siena's director of sport Stefano Antonelli who put a report with an accompanying DVD of a striker called Innocent Emeghara and other targets on the desk of manager Beppe Iacchini. "We watched DVDs of numerous players from abroad," Iachini revealed. "He seemed like the right guy for us for his speed and directness, characteristics that we needed a lot."

 

Emeghara's is a great story, for here's a kid who has come out of nowhere and from nothing too. "I was born in Lagos," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport, "but I grew up in a village nearby [called Obibi]. You can't even begin to imagine what life was like there. Poverty. Disease. But it was the best gym. If I am what I am today I owe it to my childhood." 

 

Things were far from easy. His mother was a single parent. While pregnant with Emeghara, her husband sadly passed away. "He died of an illness," Emerghara recalled. "I have never found out what." She remarried and moved from Nigeria to Switzerland. He would follow a couple of years later aged 13. "The discovery of a new language and the cold weather were a surprise to me," Emeghara told the Tribune de Genève. "It took me a while to get used to it." But adjust he did. 

 

Switzerland began to feel like home to Emeghara. He became a citizen and once his talent began to emerge in particular at Grasshoppers where he scored 10 league goals two seasons ago, he would receive a call up to pull on the red and white shirt of his adopted country at the Under-21 European Championship in Denmark. 

 

Emeghara would accept the overture despite Nigeria's efforts to convince him to play for them instead. "For me it was logical to represent Switzerland," he explained. "This country has given me everything to develop into the player I am. It's thanks to Switzerland that I have risen to the top." 

 

Emeghara was a key member of the highly regarded Switzerland side featuring Yann Sommer and Xherdan Shaquiri that reached the final of the Under-21 European Championship. They were defeated 2-0 by Spain, which isn't a complete surprise when you consider David de Gea, Javi Martinez, Ander Herrera, Thiago Alcantara, Iker Muniain and Juan Mata were all named in their starting XI. 

 

The tournament was a springboard for Emeghara. He'd shone and Lorient had seen the light. They made Grasshoppers an offer and just like that he was moving across the Alps to France from the Swiss Super League to Ligue 1. And at a club with a reputation for nurturing players of promise and playing good football, he'd make an immediate impact. As we'll soon discover, this is something of a habit of Emeghara's. 

 

He scored an 88th minute equaliser on his debut against Sochaux and would get people talking about him again after a great individual goal away at Marseille when he went around Nicolas Nkoulou, one of the best centre-backs in France, and then goalkeeper Steve Mandanda too, as if they weren't there. 

 

This insouciant style belied how much effort Emeghara has put into his game. "I'm a real hard worker," he claimed. "When I want something, I go for it." 

 

He wanted to play for Switzerland at the London Olympics last summer having already been called up to the senior squad for a Euro 2012 qualifier against England. But Lorient said: 'No'. He went anyway. Needless to say, they weren't happy. When Emeghara returned, 'Inno', as he's known, was out of favour. His only appearance for Lorient in Ligue 1 this season lasted four minutes. He was sent off after replacing Jeremie Aliadiere in a 6-1 defeat to Valenciennes. 

 

When the transfer window opened again in the winter, Lorient were open to offers. One apparently arrived from Shanghai Shenhua as by then they were looking for a replacement for Didier Drogba. It was far more lucrative than that from Siena who were prepared to loan Emeghara until the end of the campaign and then pay 3m for him. It was here that his career path diverged. He could take the road paved with gold or the one slightly less travelled to Tuscany.

 

To some surprise, Emeghara chose Siena. "[At 23] I think I am still too young for China," he said. Not too young for a relegation battle, though. Siena were bottom of Serie A when he joined. Adrift by six points, the exact same number they'd been deducted at the beginning of the season for their part in the betting scandal, few gave them a chance of surviving. Emeghara has changed all that in the space of a couple of weeks. 

 

Player Focus: The Impact of Innocent Emeghara

 

Twenty one minutes into his first start against Inter, the player who claims to have been "enchanted by [their former striker] Ronaldo" scored. And if that weren't enough, he would later draw a foul in the penalty area that would see Cristian Chivu sent off. Alessandro Rosina converted the subsequent penalty and Siena quite improbably won 3-1. It felt like a turning point in their season. Emeghara, it seemed, could be their saviour.  

 

He struck again with a fine header at the near post a week later in a 1-1 draw away to Bologna. But everyone really began to stand up and take note on Monday night when Siena faced Lazio. Not least because Emeghara walked out on the pitch wearing odd boots, different in colour and brand, left and right, Adidas and Nike. "One foot was hurting so I wore a bigger size. There wasn't the same colour," he explained. 

 

It didn't seem to affect him. Far from it. Emeghara found the net again. Twice, in fact, in a rousing 3-0 victory for which he received an 8.62 in WhoScored's performance ratings. The first was a carbon copy of his goal against Bologna; The second, a burst of pace to beat Giuseppe Biava and then the goalkeeper Federico Marchetti with a sliding finish. 

 

Thanks to Emeghara, Siena are now off the foot of the table and within four points of safety. "I'm happy because I am scoring goals," he said, "but above all because I am useful to the team."

 

With four goals in his first three starts for Siena, Emeghara has already found the net as many times as Emanuele Calaio, the player he replaced, and bizarrely enough is Siena's top scorer. He has a strike rate of one every 70 minutes. He has made almost exactly the same impact on the pitch for Siena as another much higher profile January signing, Mario Balotelli, has for Milan. 

 

The Italy international has also got four in three starts and is averaging one every 67 and a half minutes. The contrast however is whereas Milan spent 20m on Balotelli, Emeghara has initially cost his new club nothing apart from wages and might well end up more than paying for himself if he helps Siena avoid another drop into Serie B. 

 

Of course, it's not necessarily said that he will do that. At the moment, Emeghara is still an unknown quantity and he's profiting from that. Once opponents wise up to him, things might be different. 

 

Still, the club deserves credit for identifying a potential saviour or at least someone who can give a much-needed boost and some momentum to their cause from now until the end of the season. They could always buy him for 3m and sell him on at a profit in the summer. It represents good business all round.

 

"Emeghara has shown quality," president Massimo Mezzaroma said. "But we already knew he had it. We choose players carefully. We're not collecting stickers for a Panini album." 

 

That maybe so, but Siena have found one no one else had in Italy, one that everyone would have liked to have found: a potential new star in Innocent Emeghara.

Comments (3)

 
  • I've really enjoyed his performances so far. Hoping Siena can get into a good form now and avoid the drop to Serie B.

  • Really mind-opening. #like

  • Great article again, James.

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Boyce Auxerre Phil Bardsley Jose Bosingwa Gretar Steinsson Mattia Cassani Jonathan Woodgate Germany National Football Team Gasperini Mauro Zarate Diego Forlan Estaban Cambiasso Juraj Kucka Marco Faraoni Joel Obi Benedikt Howedes Clemens Fritz Chris Lowe Daniel van Buyten Albania Yann M’Vila Baptiste Reynet Raul Meireles Angelo Palombo Eric Tie Bi Faouzi Ghoulam Chris Mavinga Anderson Aaron Hughes Chris Baird Raul Aly Cissokho Alessandro Del Piero Samir Handanovic France National Football Team Marc Tierney Bundelsiga Raul Bobadilla Michael Dawson Loric Remy Jean Pascal Mignot Mainz 05 Schalke 04 Marcel Risse Steven Reid Danny Gabbidon Michal Kadlec Paulo Machado Ben Watson Spain National Football Team German National Football Team Bundeslgia Ricardo Carvalho Ivan Ramis Diego Colotto Sergio Fernandez Sere A Cesare Bovo Miguel Britos Bostjan Cesar Jose Angel Gabriel Heinze Chris Samba Charles N'Zogbia Yohan Demont Rod Fanni Rudy Mater Georgios Tzavellas Javier Pinola Dennis Aogo Daniel Schwaab Attacking Full-Backs Defensive Wingers 2010/11 Attacking Wingers Nicolas Douchez Jeremy Menez Under-21 Team of Season 2010-11 Maxi Rodriguez Scott Dann Crossing Wingers Under-21 Team of Season All-Round Midfielders Benoit Pedretti Rising Stars Kyle Walker Gaetano D'Agostino Centre Backs Paulo Da Silva Ivan Hernandez Eric Abidal Weligton Borja Ekiza Alassane Toure Stephane Grichting Jordan Loties Kader Mangane Adama Coulibaly Martin Stranzl Pedro Geromel Neven Subotic Christian Zapata James Tomkins Roger Johnson Stephan Lichsteiner Reto Ziegler David Vaughan Seb Larsson Asamoah Gyan Dimitri Payet Benoit Pedretti Anthony Mounier Mehmet Ekici Simao Duda Alvaro Cejudo Xabi Prieto Alexsandar Kolarov Guiseppe Mascara Simone Bentivoglio Fernando Marques Gian Piero Gasperin Thomas Hitzlsperger Rafael Van der Vaart Theofanis Gekas Gerard Asamoah Youssef Al Arabi Lisandro Loric Remy Victor Hugo Montano Edison Cavani Sergio Pellissier David Di Michele Steward Downing Spain Under 21 Felipe Caicedo Pierre Webo Youssef El-Arabi Brown Ideye Mobido Maiga Chu-Young Robin Van Persie Kevin Gamerio England U21 Udinese. Alexis Sanchez Pedro Sami Allagui Frédéric Kanouté Renato Augusto Jonathan Pitropia Eljero Elia Ivo Llicevic Fernando Muslera Diego Perez Alvaro González Abel Hernandez David VIlla Marcel Schmelzer Danijel Pranjic Holger Badstuber Sven Bender Johan Djourou Darren Fletcher Carlos Kameni Thiago Silve Antonia Di Natale Cristiano Zapata Domenico Criscito Luis Jimenez Josep Ilicic Samuel Eto’o Alexis Thébaux Ludovic Sané Mamouda Sakho Boukary Dramé Daniel Alves Nikolay Mihaylov Charles Puyol Ji-Sung Park Edwin van der Sar Dani Alves John O’Shea Park Ji-Jung Gabi Fernandez Jonathan de Guzman Michael Owen Gary Taylor-Fletcher Ian Evatt DJ Campbell Charles N’Zogbia Wolverhampton Robinho Rudi Garcia Avram Grant Conor Sammon Wayne Bridge Rob Green Victor Obinna Mike Hanke Borussia Munchengladbach VfL Bochum Tomasz Kuszczak Martin Olsson Brett Emerton Steven N’Zonzi Muset Ozil Gianpaolo Pazzini Leonardo Seydou Keita Miguel Pallardo Ibrahim Afellay Valdo Pallardo Damien Perquis Luka Modrid David SIlva Roberto Mancini Benoit Assou-Ekotto Vedran Corluka Carlo Ancelotti Saloman Kalou Clarence Seedorf Matteo Brighi Fabio Simplicio Rodrigo Taddei Mark Van Bommel Gennaro Gattuso Kevin Prince-Boateng Nicolas Burdisso Elkin Soto Pep Gaurdiola Lassana Diarra Jurgen Klopp Lucas Barrios Antonio da Silva Robert Mak Heurelho Gomes Andre Marriner Pinto Alavro Arbeloa Alexander Hleb Cameron Jerome

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