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Super Eagles: Finidi George should be honest with himself

Barring last-minute changes, one of Nigeria’s best wingers, Finidi George, who is the coach of the most successful football club in Nigeria, Enyimba FC of…

Barring last-minute changes, one of Nigeria’s best wingers, Finidi George, who is the coach of the most successful football club in Nigeria, Enyimba FC of Aba, will become the next Coach of the Super Eagles. After the departure of the Portuguese coach, Jose Peseiro, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) advertised the vacant position and the former Nigerian international is among those who are jostling for the plum job.

Although the recruitment process is shrouded in so much secrecy, indications are strong that the NFF which is favourably disposed to hiring another expatriate coach is now looking in the direction of two former internationals, Emmanuel Amuneke and Finidi George. However, impeccable sources have said between the two, George is more favoured to land the plum job.

This is not coming as a surprise to many because not long ago, a former president of the NFF, Amaju Pinnick, made a strong recommendation for George. He spoke so highly of the coach as he said the former Super Eagles winger has what it takes to lead the present squad. Even as he is no longer the NFF president, everyone knows that Pinnick is still influential in Nigeria and global football.

Apart from the support from the FIFA Executive Committee member, other credible sources have said the NFF is pleased with George’s humility and calmness. He is said to be level-headed and won’t be too difficult for the bigwigs at the Sunday Dankaro House Abuja to manipulate. In as much as they are not well grounded in technical matters, it is said some NFF chiefs always want to have a say in players’ invitations and selection for matches.

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Therefore, any coach who is independent-minded or rigid is seen as a stumbling block that must be kept at arm’s length. It is also common knowledge that the NFF always struggles to pay its coaches so the federation prefers to deal with someone who will accept to work even without pay to one who will scream to high heavens after one month without his salary. George is said to be patient and respectful even in the face of tribulations.

Indeed, the odds began to favour George when the NFF appointed him in acting capacity to lead the Super Eagles in the two friendly matches with the Black Stars of Ghana and the Eagles of Mali in Marrakech. It was a big opportunity that he failed to grab with both hands. Although the Super eagles won the first match against arch-rivals Ghana, they were beaten 2-0 by Mali in the second match.

Beyond the contrasting results in Marrakech, George’s management of the players was abysmal to say the least. After the match against Mali, some of the players openly crticised him as they remonstrated against his decisions. Atlanta of Italy attacking winger, Ademola Lookman and Real Sociedad striker, Sadiq Umar were the most aggrieved of the players and they didn’t hide their displeasure.

For many people, events that unfolded after the trip to Morocco weren’t good for the ambition of the coach. However, that acrimonious relationship with the players appears not to have hurt the chances of George who is getting closer to becoming the substantive head coach of the Super Eagles.

Briefly, apart from playing 62 times for Nigeria in over a decade, scoring six international goals, George is one of the four Nigerians who have won the prestigious UEFA Champions League. He and his compatriot Nwankwo Kanu won it in 1996 with Ajax Amsterdam while John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses also won the trophy in 2012 with Chelsea of England. He also won the AFCON Cup in 1994 and was in the team that finished as runners up in 2000 on home soil.

George also represented Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup in the USA and the 1998 edition in France after which he retired from international football. His illustrious career also took him to the Spanish LaLiga where he played for Real Betis and Mallorca. In the twilight of his career, he made a brief appearance in the English league with Ipswich Town. In all, the pacy and skillful winger scored a total of 74 goals in 361 appearances for clubs and country. At the moment, the 53-year-old holds the highly rated UEFA A licence which qualifies him to coach any team in the world.

Without any doubt, George had a hugely successful career as a football player but talking about his suitability for the Super Eagles job, he is yet to convince some of us. Unless we are ready to further downgrade the standard of the Super Eagles, Finidi is not yet ripe enough to lead the team’s technical crew.

Of course, it may be argued that it didn’t take the likes of Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone, Filippo Izanghi, Mikel Arteta, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez and a host of others to quickly transit from players into successful coaches, George doesn’t come across as one who can hit the ground running.

Yes, he was a brilliant football player but what he has shown far as a coach is not inspiring. He appears to be short on self-confidence as was evident during the 2023 AFCON. Although it is not allowed for an assistant to share the touchline with his technical adviser or Head Coach as the case may be, some smart assistants still find ways to surreptitiously pass instructions to their players. No smart assistant coach leaves the whole work to his boss.

Finidi’s apparent docility at the AFCON wouldn’t have been an issue but considering his profile as a former UEFA Champions League winner and World Cup player, he was expected to also show eagerness to help the team in its trying technical moments, especially when Peseiro was obviously bereft of ideas. Unfortunately, he was a ‘sit and look’ assistant all in the name of allowing his boss to do his job. I doubt if Daniel Amokachi would behave the same way.

Even at Enyimba where he is coaching presently, they have failed to impress in the continent under his watch. After he guided Enyimba to their ninth NPFL title in the 2023 season, the ‘Peoples Elephants’ failed to go beyond the preliminary round of the CAF Champions League. Then an opportunity came for George and his wards to atone for the early collapse in the Champions League when the CAF picked Enyimba among elite clubs to compete in the inaugural edition of the African Football League Cup, but the former African champions fumbled again. They were beaten home and away by Wydad Casablanca to exit the money-spinning competition without a win.

Well, it’s obvious that George lacks the experience and technical expertise to coach the Super Eagles but he is the NFF’s favourite among the indigenous coaches who have applied for the job. We all love ‘Finito’ as he was fondly called in his playing days, but he isn’t ripe enough for the job. He should first understudy a more experienced coach. It is doubtful, if he learnt any useful thing under Peseiro, a man who also needed help. So, as the gentleman that he is, George should be honest with himself. He shouldn’t attempt to bite off more than he can chew. But before I am misunderstood, I hold the ex-international in high esteem. He is a future Super Eagles coach.

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