The Nigerian goalkeeper gave his all to emerge as the Dutch side’s undisputed shot-stopper, but another is keen to overtake him next season
Tim Coremans has warned Maduka Okoye to brace up for a fight as he would do everything possible to overtake the Nigerian as Sparta Rotterdam’s number one goalkeeper.
Okoye joined Sparta Rotterdam from Fortuna Dusseldorf II on a free transfer last season and arrived as the club’s reserve goalie, with Benjamin van Leer the preferred option between the sticks.
But the 21-year-old quickly won the heart of his manager and was shortly installed as the number one.
Okoye went on to enjoy a brilliant season, keeping ten clean sheets in 35 games while helping Sparta finish in the European playoff spots.
The youngster was also named in the Eredivisie team of the season and was at a point linked with a move to Ajax as a replacement for Andre Onana, who could join Arsenal this summer.
But there’s a different challenge coming from another quarter.
A club faithful, Coremans was one of the stars when Sparta was promoted to the Eredivisie more than two years ago. But a serious injury kept him out of action for the last year and a half.
But the 30-year-old is fit again and was among the first to the team’s training ahead of the new season, having extended his contract at Het Kasteel until mid-2022.
Coremans is aware that Okoye, one of Nigeria’s most valuable stars, is untouchable at the moment, but the Dutchman’s target is primarily to displace the Nigerian as the club’s first-choice keeper.
“That is always the goal, and it will be again this year,” Coremans told Rijnmond.
“I’ll see where we end up; I’m going to do everything I can to get there.
“It is understandable that he (Okoye) built up some credit last year. He has done well. But we will all see. If he does not make a transfer, I will fight him; if he makes a transfer, I will also up the fight.”
In a similar scenario to his club experience, Okoye had to displace Francis Uzoho, Daniel Akpeyi, and Ikechukwu Ezenwa to become Super Eagles’ undisputed number one.
The former Fortuna Dusseldorf goalkeeper was in goal when Nigeria face Cameroon over two legs in an international friendly earlier this month.