When Emmanuel Dennis stunned the Santiago Bernabeu two years ago, not many would have predicted he would be playing at Vicarage Road, trying to help his team avoid relegation from the English top-flight.
This is not to say the player is too big for Watford, but his trajectory suggested things could have been different for him two years ago.
Two years ago, Dennis caught the public eye after he scored a brace for Club Brugge in their Champions League clash against European royalty Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
It was a remarkable performance, and it was hoped it would be the start of something great. But two years later, the 24-year-old is trying to put his career back on track.
One thing about Dennis, though, is that he loves the headlines, either for the right or wrong reasons. Following his sterling performance at the Bernabeu, Dennis showed his quality again against another European giant, Manchester United, in the Europa League.
The Super Eagles star continued to impress at Club Brugge and yet again scored the team’s opening goal in last season’s Champions League clash against Zenith St Petersburg.
But that proved to be the beginning of the end of Dennis’ time with Club Brugge. The Nigerian international was suspended after he stormed off the bus ahead of the Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund.
According to reports, Dennis stormed off after being told not to sit on his favourite seat due to coronavirus restrictions.
As a result, the club took disciplinary action against him. This particular incident is the first of many that put Dennis in the news for the wrong reasons and showed that he had an attitude problem.
Following the bus incident, the Nigerian international ran into trouble with the law authorities in Belgium after he showed the middle finger to Belgian police, who had stopped Dennis and his friend for overspeeding.
After this incident, his position at Club Brugge became untenable, and he was loaned out to German Bundesliga club, FC Cologne.
Cologne should have offered Dennis a new lease of life, but he ran into problems again at the club. His attitude was yet again criticised by the former Bily Goats former Sporting Director, Horst Heldt.
“He’s not an easy guy,” Heldt said of Dennis, as per the Express.
“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.”
Although Dennis came out to deny these claims, it is hard to believe him, given it was not the first time he would be in the news for the wrong reasons.
Dennis’ loan spell at Cologne ended on a disappointing note, and it looked like there was no way back for him until Watford decided to give him another opportunity by paying five million euros to sign him from Club Brugge.
He has grabbed the opportunity perfectly and has proven to be one of the signings of the season so far. The attacker has had a brilliant start to life in the Premier League, with six goals and five assists for the Hornets this season.
His performances haven’t gone unnoticed either. He recently won Watford’s player and goal of the month for November, while he has also been nominated for the Premier League player of the month.
However, while it is good to see Dennis making the headlines again for football reasons, he must keep it that way and maintain the right attitude.
He cannot afford to repeat the mistakes he made at his previous clubs. The Nigerian striker has a big ego and believes in himself, which is good for a player’s confidence.
But there’s a thin line between ego and pride, which is what Dennis needs to understand.
Recently, there were reports that he could shun next year’s Africa Cup of Nations due to his relationship with Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr, although he has denied those claims.
Still, Dennis needs to learn how to deal with people as it would go a long way in shaping his career. His attitude has been called into question a couple of times, and that is not a good look for him.
However, so far, he has not run into any trouble at Watford, which is a good thing for him. The Nigerian has the talent, but it is also important he keeps the right attitude to forge a successful and sustainable career.
His career looked lost in June, but he has grabbed his opportunity at Vicarage Road, and if he keeps it up with good behaviour, it could be a step towards a big move.