The former African Footballer of the Year remains one of a few Nigerians to have ever played for the Catalans, but it won’t have been possible but for his exploits in the United States
Chile 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup-winning coach Emmanuel Amuneke has explained that his excellent performances at the Atlanta Olympic Games where Nigeria won her first, and only gold medal in football convinced Barcelona to sign him from Sporting Lisbon.
Amuneke left Africa a cult-hero, having inspired Egypt’s Zamalek to the 1993 CAF Champions League as well as two Egyptian Premier League titles.
The left-winger then secured his legacy by scoring the championship-winning goals as Nigeria lifted her second-ever AFCON trophy at Tunisia ’94.
And his fame skyrocketed on the international scene following his dazzling displays during the Super Eagles maiden appearance at the 1994 FIFA World Cup and his winning of the Best African Player award later that year.
Barcelona’s interest in Amuneke grew, but the Eziobodo-born forward’s ugly injury record caused the Spanish giants to delay on that transfer decision.
The Camp Nou landlords were, however, convinced of Amuneke’s ability after watching him help Nigeria’s Dream Team beat Brazil and Argentina to claim the Olympics gold medal, the first African country to achieve that honour.
“Before going to the Olympics, there was an agreement with Barcelona, but I was struggling with injury, so there were doubts about my ability,” Amuneke told FIFA.com.
“But after the Olympics, Barcelona picked up their interest again, and I eventually moved there. The impact I made in Atlanta allowed people to see that this guy is a good player, and you can count on him.”
But the injuries refused to go away, and Amuneke only played 19 La Liga games across four seasons for Barcelona before he departed for Albacete in 2000.