Juventus Turin,Italy (1999-2000)
After 2 glorious and blessed seasons with Ajax, I arrived at Juventus Turin,One of the most prestigious teams in the world ! The technical team was headed by Carlo Ancelotti. He was and still is one of the best coaches in the world in my opinion.
To my utmost surprise however, in our first one on one briefing just days after we resumed training, in the mountain tops in Italy, he practically made it clear to me that I was not in his plans.
To make matters worse, 2 weeks into training, in our pre-season camp in Aosta, Italy, I hurt my left ankle badly and had to train for weeks with pain and pain killers.
Eventually I flew to Köln Germany to have it looked after by my trusted friend and doctor, Dr Peter shafferhoff. But then it was too late for me, the team was in a winning streak with the legendary Zinedine Zidane leading us ahead in style.
By December 1999, just 6 months after arriving, I put in a request for a transfer to another club after Offers from other clubs emerged. I had the responsibility to stay game fit as I also had to play important games for my national team. At the time I was the captain of the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Unfortunately, the now “legendary” and controversial former general manager, Moggi of Juventus, for some unknown reason to me,till date, refused to accept me being transferred. On the bright side, playing alongside the legendary Zinedine Zidane for a whole season was a real blessing.
Zinedine Zidane is a legend and a very hard working one at that too. Even though he was gifted with extraordinary skills and talent, he worked as hard as he could to improve and in favor of the team. I am not sure if other players with his talent or even half his skills would have done the same at the time.
Zinedine Zidane called me aside once, obviously aware of the difficult situation i was experiencing and said to me: “as difficult as it may seem, no matter what happens or what is happening, look for the positive side of this situation and you will end up the best for it” little did he know, he was one of the positive effects i was experiencing. I still keep this in my head till today. Not only for what it meant but that selfless gesture from him was remarkable.
Playing with Players like Zidane, Edgar Davids,Pipo Inzaghi, Alessandro Del Piero,Antonio Conte,Ciro Ferrera etc was a great learning and honorable experience. Coupled with watching and experiencing Carlo Ancellotti work as a trainer was an unique experience!
I did not have the experience I hoped for or set out to have in Juventus but it was all God’s way of working, and that it was time to move on with my career.
However I did learn so many things one needed to avoid doing at all costs if one wants to stay long in the business!
In June 2000, I was transferred to Borussia Dortmund in Germany.