When Emmanuel Dennis lit up the Santiago Bernabeu that evening on October 1st 2019, it was supposed to be the start of something great, but his career hasn’t hit off as expected.
Dennis burst onto the scene after scoring twice for Club Brugge in a Champions League group stage match against Real Madrid.
A brace against Madrid at the Bernabeu in the biggest club competition in the world- it doesn’t get bigger than that, and it was hoped he would kick on from there.
Although Club Brugge dropped down to the Europa League that season, Dennis continued to thrive on the big stage.
The Nigerian international backed up his brace with another strike against Manchester United, even though the Red Devils won the round of 32 tie 5-1 on aggregate.
At the end of the 2019/2020 season, Dennis profile was on the rise. He finished the campaign with nine goals and two assists as Club Brugge won the Belgian league title.
Dennis exploits did not go unnoticed, with Borussia Dortmund reportedly interested in signing him as a potential replacement for Jadon Sancho.
However, a deal could not be agreed between the two clubs, and he ended up staying in Belgium. Still, it allowed him to continue his development in the just-concluded season.
Dennis had a slow start to the campaign, but he got off the mark in Club Brugge’s Champions League opener against Zenith St. Petersburg.
But that was the highlight of the 23-year-old’s season as his career went on a downward trajectory afterwards.
While it is expected for a young player to struggle with consistency, it’s important to state that in Dennis situation, he is solely responsible for the disappointing season he had.
It all started when he stormed off the bus ahead of FC Bruges Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund in Germany.
The Super Eagles star acted like a spoilt child by walking off after being told not to sit on his favourite seat in the bus due to Covid-19 protocols.
Dennis subsequently missed the clash against the German side and was also fined. Although he returned for the weekend league clash, it was the beginning of the end of his time at the club.
He made just three appearances for the club before he went out on loan to FC Cologne. But before he moved to Germany, he was in the news for the wrong reasons again, but with the Police.
The Nigerian reportedly showed a middle finger to a Belgian Police after being stopped with his friend, who was charged for overspeeding.
But in all of these, it’s important to note that Dennis lost his brother, which contributed to his poor display in the first half of the campaign.
However, the loan move to Cologne was supposed to be a fresh start, but it has turned out to be a nightmare for him.
While he did make seven consecutive league appearances, Dennis came under criticism from Cologne manager Markus Gisdol.
Gisdol complained about Dennis body language, saying he gets too emotional sometimes.
“He’s emotional and wants the balls. But this only increases the pressure on himself because the next time everyone looks at him, whether he is fixing the ball himself,” Gisdol said.
“That is body language that we and the team don’t like.
It was a statement echoed by Cologne’s former Sporting Director Horst Heldt. Heldt signed Dennis, and he revealed it was a mistake on the club’s part.
“He’s not an easy guy,” Heldt said of Dennis.
“We knew about this problem, but we took too much risk. We misjudged that.
“Dennis caused a stir because his behaviour was not what the squad needs to be doing. We then dropped him because our priority was the group.
“That was a bad transfer that is my responsibility.”
Dennis’ time with the Bily goats did not turn out to be a success because of his attitude, and he eventually left at the end of the season.
His future was unclear until he signed for Watford last week. The move provides Dennis with another opportunity, but there needs to be a change in his attitude if he wants to succeed at the club.
Watford gained promotion to the Premier League at the first time of asking, and that’s a good thing for Dennis as he gets to play in the biggest league in the world.
However, it also means there will be more spotlight on him, and with the unforgiving English press, Dennis will need to do better.
He won’t have a problem settling down at Vicarage Road as the Hornets already have three Nigerians in their ranks, including the Super Eagles vice-captain, William Troost-Ekong.
There’s also Isaac Success at the club, who is hot-headed like Dennis and has fallen in the pecking order.
Success played for just 356 minutes in the just-concluded season while he only managed five appearances the last time Watford were in the Premier League.
If Dennis hopes to avoid a similar treatment to that of Success, he needs to learn from his time at Brugge and Cologne.
The Nigerian international will need to drop his ego, get along with his new teammates and work hard for the team.
Dennis should not lack game time at Watford, but it all depends on if he’s willing to do the work. At the age of 23, the Super Eagles star can still achieve a lot in his career, but it all starts from working on his character.