The nascent Saudi Pro League (SPL) has chosen former Chelsea’s Sporting Director, Michael Emenalo, as it first director of football, reports theathletic.com.
The SPL has been on a massive drive to sign top players from around the world, as well as top class coaches and managers for the league, which has become the top draw for talents because of the enormous pay to the main actors.
Emenalo occupied a similar role at Chelsea from 2011 to 2017, overseeing a hugely successful period across the men’s, women’s and academy sides at the west London club.
The former Nigeria international left back was also heavily involved in transfer activity, with the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and N’Golo Kante recruited during his Stamford Bridge tenure.
Emenalo went on to spend two years as sporting director for AS Monaco and has since remained active in consultancy capacities.
He is regarded among the best in his field and will be responsible for helping the SPL develop frameworks and applying the kind of principles that are seen in the world’s biggest divisions.
Emenalo is expected to bring a staff with him — tapping into the expertise, experience and connections of people he has worked with before — and add others to bolster the set-up.
It is anticipated the 57-year-old 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.
Emenalo began his career with Enyimba and also played for Enugu Rangers before moving to the United States, where he attended college at 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.
He 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 won 14 caps for Nigeria between 1984 and 1995. He 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.