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Chelsea: Emenalo’s exit casts doubt on Conte’s future

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11/11/2017 | 09:28 pm

November 6, 2017 Michael Emenalo decided to stand down from his role as the technical director of Chelsea Football Club of England. Michael Emenalo previously worked in both the scouting and coaching departments before being promoted to become technical director in July 2011.

He has been an important part of the first team management structure since his arrival in October 2007. He also supported the work of the first team manager, leading the club’s international and domestic scouting network, and assisted in driving the technical programmes of Chelsea Academy and international youth network.

He previously worked as both head of opposition scouting and assistant first team coach under Carlo Ancelotti.

Emenalo arrived at Chelsea when former manager Avram Grant called upon a trusted ex-player from his Maccabi Tel Aviv days. The pair worked together between 1998 and 2000, the tail end of a playing career for the former Nigerian international, who made his debut in 1985.

A defender, he moved to the United States in 1986 where he graduated from Boston University three years later with a degree in international relations with political sciences, having also played college soccer.

His football career continued in Belgium and Germany before a short spell in England at Notts County in the mid 1990s, where he won the Anglo-Italian Cup at Wembley.

Michael then returned to the States where he played in the first ever MLS game for San Jose Clash. After one season, it was back to Europe and a year in the Spanish second division with Llieda. Then came the move to Israel.

Michael won 14 caps for Nigeria in total and played in the 1994 World Cup in the USA 1994 World Cup, part of a strong team including Finidi George, Jay-Jay Okocha, Daniel Amokachi and Victor Ikpeba. He missed the first game through injury but then playing against Argentina and Greece before he was knocked out by a Roberto Baggio-inspired Italy.

After hanging up his boots, Michael spent time coaching in America.

At Chelsea, he grew to become the second most powerful man after club owner, Abramovic. Tt a point, Emenalo became the spokesman for Chelsea managemnt.

While Jose Mourinho’s dismissal was a surprise only in its timing, few expected what followed a few hours later. Michael Emenalo, gave an interview to Chelsea TV in which he made clear, with remarkable frankness, details of the “decision taken to protect the interests of the club”.

By describing the “palpable discord between manager and players”, Emenalo took ownership of the decision to remove the man he only referred to as “the individual”. After he gave a prominent interview to The Daily Telegraph one month ago, reaffirming the club’s commitment to the beleaguered Mourinho, it is Emenalo who has become the public voice of the Chelsea board.

The fact that Emenalo gave that interview, and felt so free to be so critical of Mourinho, speaks volumes about his authority and his confidence at the club. As technical director at Chelsea, overseeing recruitment at all levels, and with the ear of Roman Abramovich, he was one of the most powerful men in world football.

Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, a corporate lawyer, worked on the deal to sell 72 per cent of Sibneft, Abramovich’s oil company, to Gazprom for $13bn in 2005. Marina Granovskaia worked for Abramovich at Sibneft for years and is his most trusted adviser. Eugene Tenenbaum was head of corporate finance at Sibneft, and also goes way back with Abramovich. Emenalo’s rise on to the Chelsea board, and into Abramovich’s trust, is one of the more surprising stories of the modern era at the club. All of the other board members have long-standing business ties with the owner.

They are a remarkably tight group, who have worked with each other for years, all over the world, and yet Emenalo, a Nigerian ex-pro and coach, rose to an influential role among them. He is the only one on the board with direct football experience, which gave him an authority of football issues. Only Granovskaia is now thought to have more sway with the owner.

Avram Grant was always impressed by Emenalo’s intelligence and offered him a coaching role when he retired from playing at 35. Emenalo, though, moved to the United States. He worked as a volunteer coach at Virginia Tech before moving to Tucson, Arizona, the hometown of his American wife Erin Fahey, also a former footballer and coach. In 2006 Emenalo joined the Tucson Soccer Academy, working as the director of player development – in charge of “pre-formation training” – and becoming chief executive.

Grant always remembered Emenalo. When, in September 2007, he replaced Mourinho as Chelsea manager the team were preparing to face Valencia in the Champions League and Grant flew Emenalo to Spain to scout them.

Emenalo’s plan helped Chelsea to a 2-1 win at the Mestalla on 3 October. Grant introduced Emenalo to Abramovich afterwards and the deal was done to bring the Nigerian to Stamford Bridge as chief scout. “I am going to a club that has a manager that I have the utmost respect for, and I can learn from,” Emenalo said of Grant. “It is a wonderful soccer education for me, like studying for your PhD at Harvard.”

During his time at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012, plus three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, the League Cup and Europa League. He has been responsible for everybody the club brought in or sold. The likes of Mohammed Sala, Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Guadrado among others. Most of them did not blossom because the coach did not like them. Emenalo’s management acumen ensured Chelsea complied with UEFA’s financial fairplay. He saw the recruitment of seven managers.

Emenalo said: “This has been a very difficult decision to make, but one I believe is right for both myself and my family, and the club.

In his his resignation letter, Emenalo wrote: “I have had the privilege to work alongside some of the most talented people in the world of sport over the past 10 years, and I will depart incredibly proud of the achievements we have made.”

Emenalo’s departure could be a big blow to Antonio Conte who, in the Nigerian has lost a supporter in the Chelsea boardroom. It was Emenalo that gave him the players he wanted but recent public discontent by Conte following a tough transfer period last summer could spell doom for the Italian with Emenalo’s departure.

Conte told the club’s website:

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said: “I am very sorry to see Michael leave Chelsea, and I would like to thank him for all his help and support since I arrived at this club.”

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said: “It is with regret that the owner and board of directors accepted Michael’s resignation this week. We are sorry to see him go but understand his desire to move on and explore new challenges.”

The sudden departure of the former Nigerian international has left a big vacuum at the Stamford Bridge, particularly now that the January transfer window beckons. Chelsea will need to get a professional to step into the void because that role needs a specialist.

(c) 2017 Vanguard Media Limited, Nigeria Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (, source Middle East & North African Newspapers

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