The former Nigerian international defender and recently departed Chelsea technical director, Michael Emenalo, has never been one to grant regular interviews. He occasionally spoke to the in-house Chelsea TV station in his 10 years at the club. Yesterday he granted an interview to the UK’s Talksport radio station. It made very insightful listening.
Emenalo stressed that there are similarities between his last job at Chelsea and his new sporting director role at Monaco. He had a lot of praise for Chelsea’s coach Antonio Conte, whom he described as one of the best coaches in the world. “Chelsea are very lucky to have Conte. Every year we seemed to find some very good people to manage or coach that club and I think in Antonio Conte they have one of the best three coaches in the world.”
The former Enugu Rangers player explained that he had an employer/employee relationship with Chelsea’s reclusive owner, the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. According to Emenalo, the owner likes people who he can trust to deliver his vision which is simple but demanding.
Emenalo also shed more light on the perception that Chelsea didn’t give young players a chance in the first team. He said young players at the club, which include the likes of Nigerian central defender Kenneth Omeruo, should not be asking for a chance, they should earn that chance. He explained that they were usually sent out on loan to create a “memory bank” of performances that would prove to the coach that they were ready for dealing with pressure at top level.
One of panelists asked Emenalo if he could remember where he was in June 1994, and informed him he was playing for Nigeria at the Foxborough Stadium in Boston against Greece in the World Cup – a match that Nigeria won 2-0. It was disappointing that the interview didn’t cover more about Nigeria and their prospects at the World Cup in Russia next year.
That said, Emenalo came across as very cerebral and dignified. One of the listeners tweeted that he was the most interesting person they have had on Talksport for years.
Michael Emenalo on @talksport speaking to @JimWhite .Best thing they've done in a while. Certainly most interesting person they have had on that station for some time. Emenalo leaving Chelsea is a big loss. Sadly our shallow-minded fan base were not appreciative enough of him.
— Heisenberg (@Chaitika) December 4, 2017
Listen to the interview here.