Champion of Turkey - Emenike repays Fenerbahce faith

The Nigerian striker became a Turkish champion last week after victory for his side in the Super Lig. In this feature we look back over a fantastic year for the forward

By Solace Chukwu

They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes. 

As the final whistle went at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium on the 27th of April, 2014, Super Eagles striker Emmanuel Emenike must have seen a million images whirring through his head. When something momentous happens, there is often a sense of surrealism like being in a fishbowl.

It takes a while to hit. 

Emenike has finally conquered Turkey. The wait has been five long years, starting in 2009 when 1. Lig Karabukspor picked him up on a season-long loan from South African outfit F.C Cape Town (not to be confused with the more illustrious Ajax Cape Town) of the National First Division. Even then, there had hardly been any indication that the Otuocha native was a world-beater. His eighteen months in South Africa had yielded 23 starts and only four goals. 

The burly forward immediately set about shaming the statsmen upon his transfer. He bossed the Turkish 1. Lig, hauling Karabukspor to promotion to the Super Lig with 16 goals, and claiming the award for Best Foreign Player in the Division in the process.

If there was any doubt as to whether he could replicate the goals return in the big league, they were swiftly dispelled by another fourteen goals.

It made the big boys take notice, and giants Fenerbahce shelled out an undisclosed fee to snap him up in May 2011. 

It seemed to be going swimmingly for Emenike until, less than two months into his career with the Yellow Canaries, he was arrested on allegations of match-fixing. Despite being cleared for lack of evidence, he handed in a transfer request and was transferred to Russian side Spartak Moscow without having made a single appearance for Fener. 

He would later reveal, in a BBC interview, that it had “…been a [period of] mental torture,” for him, and that he had been affected physically. He also stated, almost prophetically “Somehow, I know our paths will cross again in a positive way.” 

Two years at Spartak Moscow introduced Emenike to Champions League football and 21 goals in 42 appearances (including a memorable brace against Scottish champions Celtic), but there was a sense of unfinished business back in Turkey where the striker said he had “…grown up in all ramifications” and whose fans he loved.

Despite signing a new contract with the Russians, complete with a €3omillion buy-out clause, there was little resistance when Fenerbahce came back for the player with a €13million offer in August 2013. 

Fenerbahce have had to wait for their man, and he has set about repaying the club’s faith in solid fashion. The club won the league title with three games to spare, building up an unassailable 12-point lead over their closest rivals Galatasaray, by virtue of the point earned in drawing at home to Caykur Rizespor. Such a healthy lead over a Gala team with such players as Didier Drogba, Burak Yilmaz and Wesley Sneijder among others is not to be sniffed at. 

Their 32 games have yielded 21 wins and 68 points, with only five losses. Averaging just over two goals a game, they have in Emenike a striker who has weighed in with 12 goals in 27 appearances (nine of these as a sub). His haul is second only to Senegal’s Moussa Sow, who is the club’s top scorer with 13.  

There is so much more to the powerhouse’s game than goals though: he has also weighed in with eight assists, also the club’s second highest tally. This means that Emenike’s goals and assists combined make a staggering 29.8% contribution of Fenerbahce’s goals, a truly remarkable return considering only eighteen of his appearances have been starts. 

This season has seen Emenike prove himself to be one of the Super Lig’s top players. With a whole year of adaptation dispensed with, it is plausible that this hulking train of a forward will only get better. The prospect is one to terrify opposition defenders, but also his own manager Ersun Yanal, who will have to deal with the possibility of losing his star striker with the World Cup in Brazil looming.

If he does move to a bigger league, the defenders there cannot claim they have not been warned.

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