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Nigeria's young star in Italy

Posted by BBC News on 2003/03/27 | Views: 2060 |

Nigeria's young star in Italy

Martins: From boy to man: Before his stunning strike against Bayer Leverkusen in the Uefa Champions League, Obafemi Martins was on the fringes of Inter Milan's first team.

Martins after scoring Inter's first goal against Bayer Leverkusen

Martins displays his athleticism

Before his stunning strike against Bayer Leverkusen in the Uefa Champions League, Obafemi Martins was on the fringes of Inter Milan's first team.

With Gabriel Batistuta, Christian Vieri, Hernan Crespo and Alvaro Recoba in fierce contention for goalscorers slots, it took an act of providence for the 19 year old Nigerian to get his golden moment in Germany.

Injury to Vieri forced Inter coach Hector Cuper to take a chance on the talented but inexperienced lad, a gamble that richly paid off.

"It was no surprise he rose to the occasion. Martins is a cool headed player and is always willing to learn," said Manolo Gasparotto, a writer with the respected Italian sports daily La Gazzetta Dello Sport.

"He works hard and could have a great future. The coach believes he could develop into a technically mature player," Gasparotto told BBC Sport.

Born on 28 October 1984, Martins left Lagos for Reggiana in 2000 and played for its youth team.

He scored 20 goals in the U-16 championship and was subsequently discovered by Inter, who paid 700,000 Euros to bring the Nigerian to the San Siro in 2001.

After a distinguished stint with Inter's youth team, Martins made his first team debut against Parma on 22 December, with a subsequent appearance against Bari in the Italian Cup.

But the Champions league provided him with the most memorable moment of his budding career.

"Inter president Massimo Moratti has a lot of belief in his abilities and so does the coach," says Gasparotto.

"Martins is a very strange kind of player, because when he has clear sight of goal he can be very dangerous.

"But he's not so good when he's not provided with such an opportunity.

"I believe he still has a lot of room to improve on a technical level," said Gasparotto.

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