George Finidi had sealed his place among the greats of Nigerian football before he headed for England, but the adventure turned sour after a brilliant start.
Ajax hero Finidi has shared more details about what went wrong in his only Premier League season with Ipswich Town.
Ipswich had remarkably finished the 1999-2000 EPL season in 5th position on 66 points, and just 14 off eventual champions Manchester United, having gained promotion just the year before.
Needing to consolidate their top-flight status and prepare for European football, the Tractor Boys made some big money signings, including Marcus Bent and Matteo Sereni, with Finidi the ace in the pack.
The Nigerian winger – a European champion, a three-time Eredivisie champion, and an African champion before age 25 – had already established his legacy as one of the most exciting forwards in the 90s.
And he got to a flying start at Portman Road, scoring a brace on his debut to help Ipswich claim a 3-1 victory over Derby in the second game of the season.
But it all went downhill from there as injuries struck Finidi out of action for a couple of weeks, and he never did fully regain his best form as the George Burley-tutored side suffered relegation at the end of the campaign. Finidi left unceremoniously in 2003.
A disappointed Finidi still regrets the way that experience came to an ugly end.
“Yeah, what happened at Ipswich Town was really unfortunate because I went there with high spirits and high hopes,” said Finidi, as quoted by the Nation Online.
“Actually I started the league season with them on a high note, but after the third or fourth game I broke my cheekbone against Fulham when somebody elbowed me, and I had to go through a surgery on my cheekbone which kept me out for three or four weeks.
“When I came back, I started playing again trying to get match fitness but when I was almost match fit and getting back to the same rhythm before I sustained the injury I had to go for Nations Cup and by the time I came back the team was already struggling, and there was nothing I could do.
“That was a sad story that I didn’t expect it would end up that way, but it was the reality. I broke my cheekbone, and I later went for the AFCON, and when I came back, the team was struggling.
“We tried, but it was not possible to keep the team in the top-flight. The team got relegated, and they went into administration, and we all had to leave. It was a short spell, and it was unfortunate.”