Former Super Eagles winger, Emmanuel Amuneke, has given insight into how his exploits at the 1996 Olympics helped his move to Barcelona.
For over 10 years Spanish club, Barcelona had no African player in their team after previously having the trio of Jorge Alberto Mendoça (Angola), José Antonio Ramos (Morocco) and Gerardo Miranda (Mauritania) at different times from 1966-1988.
So it was understandable when they opted to try out another talent from the continent 30 years after they first did, they had to be double sure of who they were going for and the capability of such player.
Fortunately, the searchlights were on a Nigerian football legend and former African Footballer of the Year, Amuneke.
Amuneke in an interview with FIFA.com revealed that even though there had been a preliminary agreement for his move to Barcelona from Sporting Lisbon, it was his impact at the Atlanta 1996 that helped sealed the move to the Catalan club.
Amuneke just like he did at the African Cup of Nations two years earlier in Tunisia expertly scored the winning goal that gave Nigeria the historic gold medal in the football event at the centenary games in Atlanta.
The former winger and now coach explained to FIFA.com: “Two days before the final, our coach, Jo Bonfrere, told me that some people were complaining that I was not playing at my best for the team. But in the match, he told me to stay warmed up and, as fate would have it, I scored the winning goal.
“Before going to the Olympics, there was an agreement with Barcelona, but I was struggling with injury, so there were doubts about my ability. But after the Olympics, Barcelona picked up their interest again, and I eventually moved there. The impact I made in Atlanta allowed people to see that this guy is a good player and you can count on him.”
Unfortunately for Amuneke, the injuries refused to go away thus limiting him only to 19 La Liga games across four seasons for Barcelona before he departed for Albacete in 2000.
Amuneke in a recent interview with football365.fr also admitted that he was still hurt with his short and uneventful stint at Barca.
The former Taifa Stars of Tanzania manager said his biggest career regret was his inability to live up to his potential of becoming one of Barca greats due to a serious knee injury.
“They had great players like Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Guardiola. I had to adapt to these new challenges, the pressure and wider responsibilities.
“But the injury prevented me from showing what I had in me,” he lamented.
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