The name of Michael Emenalo usually sparks a long debate among many Chelsea supporters. Yet while many of us hold an opinion on the man, few of us realise the extent of his role due to club’s lack of transparency behind the scenes.
Emenalo arrived at Chelsea in 2007 together with Avram Grant and initially was part of our scouting department. Thought to be a personal friend of Avram from their time in Israel, Emenalo managed to outlast his friend at the club. His meteoric rise up the ranks at Chelsea has been spectacular from a scout, to assistant first team coach during Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure and was finally announced as our sporting director when Andre Villas-Boas was appointed as the team’s manager in July 2011.
A statement on Chelsea’s website said the following:
“Michael takes on a vital role that will assist the overall long-term football strategy of the club.”
Whilst people on the British shores are not very used to the idea of a person working alongside a manager, mainland Europe is far more receptive. You will find that most teams from Barcelona to Udinese have a person in a supporting role, leaving the manager to concentrate on the coaching.
Michael Emenalo on his new role in 2011:
“I’m going to be supporting the manager and working with him in making sure that things run smoothly.”
“I have the responsibility to direct and manage our scouting structure internationally and domestically, and to keep an eye on and assist the academy.”
Indeed, much of Chelsea’s scouting department has seen a massive overhaul since, with the number of scouting staff being cut drastically by nearly 60%. Whilst since 2011, Chelsea have had 3 different managers in charge the strategy in place has remained largely the same, as we move away from the era of ‘Untouchables’ under Mourinho and focusing on the exciting bright talents of players like Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar and David Luiz.
When I asked for the fans’ opinion of Emenalo on twitter, the response was largely negative:
And there lies the problem. None of us are entirely sure at what he does and what he is responsible for. Whilst clearly he wasn’t the man behind the Torres transfer, we can perhaps question some of his recent decisions. The most glaring errors this season have proved to be the loaning out of Michael Essien and sale of Raul Meireles without getting any replacements. Whether Emenalo was behind those or not, he certainly should’ve been the man to recognise the need for a midfield replacement.
However, if we look at his overall tenure very few mention his successes. The recruitment of young Belgian talents such as Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne and Musonda brothers. Whereas Villas-Boas was ruthlessly sacked by Abramovich after failing to build a relationship with the dressing room, Emenalo is the man who has carried on moving us in the same direction in rebuilding our team.
Our youth teams’ recent successes have also impressed of late. Surely the coaching staff deserve most credit for this, but so does Emenalo. The loan system has improved, the kids are now going to teams and playing 30-40 games a season. It’s not perfect but we are heading in the right direction and it is certainly a major improvement on the work Frank Arnesen was doing during tenure.
Overall, perhaps Emenalo has been best summed up by the following tweet:
The Nigerian was heavily criticised when reports suggested that he played a major part in recruiting the unpopular Rafael Benitez. But was Emenalo really the guy who was tasked by Abramovich and the board to find a replacement for Roberto Di Matteo or is he just a convenient stooge for Ron Gourlay and Bruce Buck?
Even if he was – he must be the same guy who realised his error and is attempting to make amends by bringing back fan favourite Jose Mourinho. There are too many questions and not enough answers. Can we really call Michael Emenalo a failure? I certainly wouldn’t.