Michael Emenalo: Some people said I must have helped Abramovic to kill someone for me to be made technical director at Chelsea
Ex-Nigerian international Michael Emenalo has opened up on the difficulty of being the Premier League’s first-ever black technical director when he got the job at Chelsea in 2009.
“When I was appointed [as technical director] some journalists didn’t think I spoke English. They said I had never played the game. Some people said: ‘Why did this Russian owner, who knows thousands and thousands of people, confide in him? He’s African so he must have killed somebody for the owner.’ No one stopped to think it could possibly be because of my intellect or experience,” the former Super Eagles defender told The Guardian.
However, what his critics didn’t know was that he had 14 caps for the Nigerian national team including being a part of the squad which represented the country at it’s maiden World Cup appearance in 1994 although he played no part in qualification.
He was also a part of Rangers International in the Nigerian domestic league, an experience he admitted came handy when he got the Chelsea job.
In his first long media chat after he got the job, doubting journalists were so impressed that they exclaimed: ‘Wow. We didn’t know all that.’
“It’s a back-handed compliment. I came from Africa so how could I know about football? But my success at Chelsea, especially with the academy, comes from my experience in Nigeria.”
And Emenalo made a success of his assignment at Chelsea with the club winning the Champions League and three Premier League titles under a trio of managers with him at the heart of their operations between 2009 and 2017.
He was mostly renowned for revamping the loan and youth system at Chelsea which saw to the scouting of players like Mo Salah and De Bruyne, and the loan system which produced Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and other young talents – players who came in handy after Chelsea were slapped with a transfer ban.
Emenalo left Chelsea in November 2017 and three weeks later he was snapped up by AS Monaco in France where he was until August 2019.
Out of the game since then, Emenalo is ready for a return to the game after having, hopefully, proved to his critics that he can do the job as well as anyone.
“The future for me is to get back in the industry. I’ve just turned 55 and I have 12 years of experience at director level. I can perform the job even better now. I would like an opportunity to get back with a serious club – ideally in the Premier League. Yes. It’s time for the narrative to change.”