The sojourn of the quintet of Emmanuel Emenike, Oghenekaro Etebo, Imoh Ezekiel, Isaac Success and Brown Ideye in Spain may have terminated abruptly, four months after they moved to the La Liga from various leagues across the globe.
As at January when the second round of the 2017/2018 was to commence in the La Liga, Las Palmas and Malaga were rooted to the bottom of the log in 19th and 20th position in that order.
In their bids to escape the dreaded drop, Las Palmas signed Emenike on loan from Greek club, Olympiakos, Etebo from Portuguese club, CD Feirense and Ezekiel who was without a club on a two and half year deal.
For Malaga, they opted to bolster their attack with the temporary signing of Success from Premier League club, Watford and Ideye from Chinese side, Tianjin Teda.
The management of Malaga and Las Palmas had hoped that their Nigerian imports will bring their experience to bear on their new teams and in the end save them from relegation. However that was not to be as the two teams were confirmed for the drop penultimate weekend after Las Palmas lost 0-4 to Alaves and Malaga also suffered a 0-1 loss to Levante.
Gone are the days when Nigerian players formed the mainstay of Spanish teams. The likes of Finidi George and Mutiu Adepoju shone brightly in the 90s for Real Betis and Real Sociedad but this term, the Nigerian contingent except Etebo underperformed. Had the quartet of Emenike, Success, Ezekiel and Ideye stepped up to the plate, perhaps their teams would have bit the drop to the Segunda division.
Among the quintet, Emenike was the worst culprit as he did his reputation huge harm. The former Karabukspor striker struggled for fitness and hardly got on the pitch as he was most time on the treatment table. Emenike who prior to the Las Palmas opportunity was relegated to the reserves of Olympiakos will now need to look for a new employer as he is unlikely to be welcomed back into the squad by the Greek giant. Following his dip in form and with the forward already in his early 30s, it is unlikely Emenike will get suitors in Europe. At this stage of his career, the former Super Eagles striker may return to the Far East where he last played for Al-Ain. The money-spinning Chinese League and the Major League Soccer (MLS) are the other options for Emenike.
For Success, he may find it difficult to make the Super Eagles World Cup party having failed to score for Malaga in six appearances so far. At 21, Success who showed so much promise as a schoolboy international has flattered to deceive. His romp with sex workers in London did his image a devastating blow and at the moment it does not appear the former Granada man has overcome the whole episode. Unlike his compatriots who may not be familiar with the terrain in Spain, Success started his professional career in the European country, has a number of friends there and should have little problem in settling down.
Success’ teammate, Ideye did not do much to be reckoned with despite getting more run-in. It remains a mystery that the former Dynamo Kiev forward scored just once in 10 appearances.
Also, Imoh Ezekiel who was hoping to push for a place in Gernot Rohr’s team to Russia may have to look for another opportunity to break into the Super Eagles following his below par performance in the colours of Las Palmas.
One player who however stood out among the Nigerian contingent in Spain is Delta State native, Oghenekaro Etebo, whose performance laid credence to the popular colloquial aphorism that; ‘Warri no dey carry last,’ meaning ‘Warri people does not come last.’ Unfortunately he too could not prevent his team from going down.
In the middle of the pack for Las Palmas, the CD Feirense loanee displayed boundless energy, work ethic and versatility. He was undoubtedly the most outstanding player when Las Palmas secured a famous draw against eventually winners, FC Barcelona. Two areas, the diminutive midfielder will have to work on are his ball distribution skills and getting his shots on target. If he stays fit, Etebo will surely make the trip to Russia whether he will make the starting line-up at the World Cup is another kettle of fish.
Aside the five aforesaid players who made January switch to Spain, another Nigerian whose club got relegated with about four matches left to the end of the season is Super Eagles and Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho. Uzoho who has been redeployed to the ‘B’ team made a few appearances for the senior team late last year.
At the moment, the future looks bleak for Nigerians in La Liga as there is likely to be waning interest in our players from Spanish teams judging by the poor output of Ideye, Emenike, Ezekiel and Success in the league.