Nigeria winger Alex Iwobi has revealed how he sealed his deadline day transfer to Everton in 2019 while on a boat ride in Dubai.
Iwobi left Arsenal after 15 years at the club for Everton in a deal worth an initial £28 million, rising to £34 million with add-ons, and signed a five-year contract. The forward has now explained how the unexpected move happened.
The 26-year-old was at the time enjoying his holidays after turning out for Nigeria at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations before linking up with the Arsenal squad, having given up on a transfer away from North London.
“It got played down for a bit and I got told that it wasn't going to go on,” Iwobi told The National.
He added: “I was on a boat and I get a call from Marco Silva [former Everton manager] at the time saying: 'We're really interested. How do you feel?' I thought, maybe I'm ready for a new challenge.
“We told them it was an emergency like we needed to spin the boat [around] and get back quick because we were in the middle of nowhere. I have to give props to the driver because I don't know how he sped back to get us back in time to try and sign the documents.”
Iwobi, however, had a nightmare debut season for the Toffees as he suffered a hamstring injury in a match against Arsenal that kept him out until March 2020 only for his scheduled return to coincide with the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The forward, who has scored 10 goals in 59 games for Nigeria, also shared how his uncle, Super Eagles legend Jay-Jay Okocha, has been integral to his career.
“When I was younger, he used to give me advice about football. But he only speaks to me [now] about off the pitch, just making sure I handle myself well. On the pitch he just says 'enjoy it' really, the same thing he was doing,” said Iwobi.
“He wants me to do the same. He was a great player. I'm trying to live up to his standards. It's a high standard to push up to but he's a great role model for me.”
Everton survived relegation from the Premier League by the skin of their teeth last season, coming from 2-0 down to beat Crystal Palace 3-2 in their penultimate match of the season at Goodison Park, to secure a 69th straight campaign in the top-flight.
Iwobi, who has managed seven goals in 97 games in his three years on Merseyside, will be hoping to make the starting 11 when Frank Lampard’s men open their league campaign at home to Chelsea on Saturday.