Emenike: Africa's Brightest, Most Controversial Talent

Emenike: Africa's Brightest, Most Controversial Talent

Arsenal, Reading and Liverpool have all been linked with Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike. Though Emenike may have said he is concentrating on his contract in Russia, but he was quick to add being linked with a move to the Premier League is a dream come true.

Emenike: Africa's Brightest, Most Controversial Talent

On the streets of Nigeria is not Spartak Moscow shirts the fans wear, but Liverpool and Arsenal among others, two of the very clubs linked with his signature after his excellent African Nations Cup.

Emenike scored a 30-yard free-kick against the Ivory Coast in the side's 2-1 quarter-final win, before striking again from another set piece against Mali in the 4-1 semi-final win, taking his tournament tally to four.

And to think Arsene Wenger claimed Gervinho was the best player at the tournament.

Nigeria are a long way from the days of the Super Eagles side which boasted Jay Jay Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu, but if Emenike can give his nation an AFCON win over surprise package Burkina Faso in the competition's final, he will be writing his name in history.

Not to be confused with World Cup '94 forward and former Barcelona player Emmanuel Amuneke, Nigeria's present day hero has a fascinating story to tell.

Now 25, his controversy dates back a decade, back in his homeland when he was arrested for kicking a football at a policeman.

It wouldn't be his first brush with the law. 

After failing to earn a salary in his homeland, he took the decision to move to South Africa. His performances were enough to earn him a move to the Turkish second division side Karabukspor. He would become an almost instant hero.

In his debut season he bagged 16 goals, including two hat-tricks. It saw the Blue Flames promoted as champions, earning a contract extension and winning individual accolades in the process.

His first season in the top flight saw him carry on where he left off, scoring 14 times in 23 games, including another hat-trick. By now the big sides were beginning to take notice.

In May 2011 he was signed up by Turkish giants Fenerbahce for £7 million, but little did he know he would never play a single game for the club.

For he would quickly become embroiled in a match-fixing scandal which saw Fenerbahce banned from the Champions League for a season. Despite not playing a game, it was alleged Emenike was one of 13 players approached regarding bribery.

It was alleged that Emenike missed Karabukspor’s clash Fenerbahce because of an injury he did not have. Shorn of their star man Karabukspor lost game 1-0, allowing Fenerbahce to win Turkish league title. It was further alleged Fenerbahce then signed him as repayment of that debt.

Five months after signing for Spartak, Emenike was officially charged with match-fixing by the Turkish authorities. A trial began last May, and after shunning several summons, he eventually traveled to Istanbul to answer the charges, and was officially cleared in July.

Over in Moscow, life was going swimmingly, if not without controversy. Emenike scored 13 in 22 games, including five in two matches against rivals Lokomotiv Moscow, and earned his side European qualification.

At the season's end, with his match-fixing trial still ongoing, Emenike got himself into trouble twice. The first many would say was largely unavoidable, after suffering racial abuse from rival fans he reacted by making gestures back at supporters, and ended up being fined by the Russian FA.

The second incident was all of his own making. After scoring a goal against Zenit, he was red-carded after making an 'obscene' gesture towards the opposition bench, which saw him tap him own arm as if making a heroin injection. He denied this, saying it was lost in translation as it was a private message for his family, but by now trouble had got a habit of finding the striker.

On the pitch this season, Emenike has been brighter than ever. He scored the fastest goal in Russian Premier League history, netting after just 10 seconds, on the very first day of the new campaign.

He also made his Champions League debut, most interestingly of all, Spartak were drawn against his former club Fenerbahce in the qualifiers, with the match taking place just one month after his match fixing acquittal. Naturally Emenike scored, in a 3-2 aggregate victory for the Russians.

In the tournament proper, Emenike played twice against Barcelona, setting up one goal, and scoring twice against Celtic, even if Spartak would lose all four games he featured in. With five goals in the Russian Premier League this season too prior to leaving to the AFCON, the 25-year-old is a man on form.

A pacy, powerful striker with heading ability, athleticism and a fierce shot, Emenike has all the attributes needed to be a success.

Will Premier League clubs judge Emeike to be worth the hassle? Looking at his talent on the pitch, they may just take a gamble.

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