Michael Emenalo is back! Ex-Chelsea boss gets Saudi top job

Michael Emenalo is back! Ex-Chelsea boss gets Saudi top job
Credit: Iconsport

Michael Emenalo's appointment as the first-ever Director of Football for the Saudi Pro League has been confirmed as reported by The Athletic on Wednesday, 12 July 2023.

According to a credible report from The Athletic, Michael Emenalo will be overseeing football affairs in Saudi Arabia, primarily focusing on developing the competition and the teams.

The former Nigeria international left-back made his name during his stint with Premier League giants Chelsea.

The 57-year-old Emenalo first joined Chelsea in 2010 initially as Carlo Ancelotti's assistant manager, before being elevated as the club's technical director in 2011 following the Italian's departure.

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As the technical director of the Blues from 2011-2017, Emenalo rose to be one of the club's most influential figures and is credited with overseeing the scouting and transfers of several key talents of the club during his six years stay.

Star players like Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Cesc Fabregas and N'golo Kante were all acquired by the two-time Champions League winners during Emenalo's stay at Stamford Bridge

Emenalo's influence and credible leadership extended even to Chelsea's Women and Youth teams' set-up. He restructured the club's scouting system, the loan set-up, the Women's team, and transformed the Blues Youth Academy from an ineffective money-waster into the current pool of talent it's now become.

The former left-back's influence and proven track record took him to France shortly after he resigned on 6 November 2017 as technical director of Chelsea. He was appointed as AS Monaco's Sporting Director, where he spent two years and has since continued to use his wealth of experience for consultancy purposes prior to his appointment as the Saudi Pro League's Director of Football.

For being known as one of the best in his chosen field, Michael Emenalo will be expected to fine-tune the developmental framework of the Saudi league and help apply the sort of principles and approach seen in the biggest leagues in Europe and other parts of the football world.

Michael Emenalo
Credit: Iconsport

Interestingly, Emenalo has been given the leverage to come with his wealth of experienced staff by his employers. He's expected to bring these top guys and tap into their expertise, experience and connections, synergizing with this crop of people with whom he's worked with in the past. He's also been given the opportunity to recruit others as well and add to his set-up since the task given him is enormous.

Furthermore, it is expected that the 57-year-old former Chelsea technical director will also keep a close eye on the future by giving opportunities for young Saudis to join his team, learn the industry and enhance their own careers in the coming years.

In Emenalo's role as Director of Football, he will be responsible for developing frameworks within the Saudi Pro League, so that the competition runs like other top leagues in the world, even as the Public Investment Fund (PIF) under the chairmanship and guidance of HRH Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and other stakeholders plan to bring more football superstars into the Saudi Pro League.

Michael Emenalo's career as a footballer

Michael Emenalo in action for Nigeria
Credit: Icon Sport

Michael Emenalo started his football career in Nigeria in 1984 as a player for Enugu Rangers before moving to the United States. Emenalo attended college in the US and played for Boston University, from 1985 to 1988.

He played for Molenbeek in Belgium, Eintracht Trier in Germany, and Notts County F.C in England before going back to the US. Emenalo was part of the original allocated players for Major League Soccer and spent two seasons (1996–97) with the San Jose Clash. After that, he played with UE Lleida in Spain and Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel.

Emenalo also featured for the Super Eagles. He made 14 appearances for Nigeria and played in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, missing the first game through injury but then, played against Argentina and Greece before Nigeria was knocked out by Italy.

This article was most recently revised and updated 9 months ago

Joseph is a graduate engineer turned sports writer, he has covered lots of sports stories, match previews and predictions across various leagues on the planet.