PROFILE: Emmanuel Dennis, the ‘Nigerian Neymar’ who stunned Real Madrid

Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis missed out on winning the recent UEFA Champions League Player of the Week Award, but his heroics is still ringing in the heads of many.

Indeed, the footprint of the prolific 22-year-old forward has been stamped on the pitch at Santiago Bernabeu where he shook Real Madrid to its roots last Tuesday.

As he set the enviable record of being the first Nigerian to score two goals against Real Madrid in a Champions League game on their home ground, Dennis wheeled away to the corner flag to celebrate.

He mimicked the popular Ronaldo ‘Si’ celebration in front of the Bernabeu fans: the jump, the turn, the pose, and the roar, all like the legendary Ronaldo

Speaking after that match, the Nigerian international revealed why he celebrated like that: “… because I like Ronaldo, he is my favourite player in the world and I am not happy he left Madrid, so I just do the celebration to show them (Madrid fans) they miss something.”

Dennis for many is on the fast track to stardom with his commendable scoring prowess which has already made a way for him in the Nigeria national team, the Super Eagles, where he debuted recently against Ukraine and has already been invited for next friendly against five-time world champions Brazil.

Born in the Northern Nigerian town of Yola, Dennis began his footballing quest in the slums of his country’s capital with the Abuja Football Academy.

It is from the Abuja Academy that Dennis’ profound talents were noticed and he did not need to test out in the Nigeria Professional Football League or any other local club before heading out to Europe for a professional football career.

In 2016, it was reported that as many as five top sides jostled for the signature of the Nigerian youngster but he chose modest Ukrainian side, Zorya Luhansk.

It was during his time in Ukraine with Zorya Luhansk that Dennis began to shine and, according to Voetbal International, fans were so impressed with the youngster that they started calling him ‘The Nigerian Neymar’.

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It was then Club Brugge came calling and coughed out €1.2 million to acquire his services from Zorya.

The Nigerian striker hit the ground running; banging in five goals in his first six matches in Belgium. Dennis ended up playing 30 matches as Brugge romped to the 2017-18 Belgium First Division A title in his first season at the club.

Read also: UCL Round-Up: PSG thrash Real Madrid, Man City and Bayern win big

For Dennis, however, playing football was the last thing on his mind while growing up. He revealed in a recent interview on Club Brugge’s YouTube channel that being a priest or a career in medicine were his childhood fantasies.

While Dennis still takes his faith seriously, his venture into football has been quite rewarding and much more is expected if the current momentum is sustained and improved on.

Bio

Full name: Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis

Born: November 15, 1997, in Yola, Nigeria

International: Represented Nigeria in youth teams and Super Eagles

Professional clubs

Zorya Luhansk (Ukraine) – scored six goals in 22 league games

Brugge (Belgium)

Player’s qualities

Talented forward

Pacey

Mainly operates on the right-wing

Very direct

Likes to run at his marker

Teams linked with the player

Arsenal

Lyon

Fenerbache

Monaco

Price tag

£12million

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