In this interview with Complete Sports’ SULAIMAN ALAO, the onetime the midfielder popularly known as Headmaster who featured for Real Madrid B team, Racing Santander and Real Sociedad during his playing days in Spain gave his assessment of the title won by Real Madrid among other things.
Complete Sports: How will you assess the performances of Nigerian players in the Spanish Laliga during the recently concluded 2019/2020 season?
Adepoju: I think our players did very well in the concluded season if one looks at it from their individual performances especially. Most of them were able to get a good number of games under the boots and I think that is the first yardstick to measure their performance.
Samuel Chukwueze played most of Villarreal games and was able to score a number of goals; Ramon Azeez also had a very good outing this season with Granada and also scored like two goals despite playing deep in the midfield.
The duo of Kenneth Omeruo and Chidozie Awaziem were regular features for Leganes even though the club could not retain their LaLiga status which was quite unfortunate.
Lastly, Oghenekaro Etebo also showed glimpses of what he can do even though he only had a short loan stint and didn’t start the season with Getafe. I am really proud that all of the players gave a good account of themselves individually in the Laliga and there were also, no negative report about them on and off the field
all through the season.
Who among all the Nigerian players you’ve mentloned in the Laliga impressed you the most in the season?
I think all of them were impressive as I’ve said earlier, but I will pick Chukwueze as the standout performer among them because he showed that his first season’s performance at Villarreal was no fluke. At his young age of 21, it is not easy to be at the top of your game in a competitive league like the LaLiga.
Also, that some bigger clubs in the
Spanish LaLiga and elsewhere in Europe showed interest to lure him away from Villarreal speaks of his quality. I hope he would be able to further build on his performances next season.
Who would you say surprised you most among the players with good showing?
I am not really surprised by our players in the Laliga during the season because we already know their worth. All of them are well established back home in the national team doing well in the Super Eagles. However, I would have been a bit more surprised with Etebo who came on loan to Getafe from Stoke City but then, he had little time to showcase his abilities in his half-season which was also troubled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Real Madrid eventually wrestled LaLiga title away from Barcelona. What would you say made the difference for Madrid who last won the title in the 2016/17 season?
First, I’m so happy that Real Madrid won the title because I was a former player at the club. I think Madrid were able to beat Barcelona to the title this season because theý were better organised.
There was stability within the team and I think they were better prepared especially during the lockdown caused by the covid-19 pandemic because it showed when the league resumed as they were able to hit the ground running by winning almost all their games to overtake Barcelona.
Madrid were also in better physical shape, they were more focused and they have a big squad of good players. Credit also goes to the returning coach, Zinedine Zidane who managed the team well and was able to bring thebest out of the squad. I will say Madrid deserved their title.
What will you say made Barcelona to lose the title despite the presence of their talisman, Lionel Messi?
I think Barcelona lost the title due to the problems they have in the dressing room which made them lose concentration. The team lacked stability which was needed to see them trough at the most difficult stages in the season. Remember they changed their coach midway into the season with the current manager, Quique Setien, coming in for ErnestoValverde. That I think caused a bit of
So, all those issues eventually affected the team’s balance and it showed as they struggled to hit their rhythm after the resumption of the league from the coronavirus break. Madrid simply benefited from Barca’s unstable situation to win the title and Messi’s individual brilliance was not enough to save the situation this time.
Going forward, do you foresee a bright future for Nigerian players in the Laliga?
Well, I think the future of Nigerian players in the Spanish LaLiga is bright. They have done well in the concluded season, but there is still lots of rooms for improvement. With dedication, focus and hard work, they can go on to feature for bigger clubs in the Laliga in the nearest future.
As the Spanish Laliga Ambassador in Nigeria, what are you looking forward to next season and should we be expecting to see more Nigerian players moving to star in the Laliga?
I am looking forward to having more Nigerian players play ín the LaLiga which is the best league in the world. Hopefully, the work we are doing is gradually stabilizing and will be bearing desired fruits in the nearest future. However, looking forward to next season, I hope the coronavirus pandemíc would have been totally taken care of because it has affected the football globally.
A situation where matches are played in empty stadiums is not ideal and I’m looking forward to having fans return to watch matches and support their respective teams in the stadiums next season. I pray God in his mercies will help bring about an end to the pandemic for everything to return to normalcy.
Your final words, Headmaster?
Well, I want to say congratulations to all Real Madrid fans – we are all champions! And to everyone else stay safe and God bless.
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