Not so many players have the opportunity and privilege to play alongside some of the finest footballers ever on the planet. But talent, they say, opens doors.
Nnamdi Oduamadi’s talent opened doors for him. And he soon found himself in one of the world’s biggest teams, as he shared same dressing room with footballers he considered his role models. It was surreal.
In one interesting and exciting clip in his days with AC Milan, Odu as he’s fondly called was seen teaming up with legendary Brazilian footballer, Ronaldinho to effect devastation on the opposition.
From the dusty streets of Lagos, Nigeria where dusk meets dawn on its toes, Odu broke out as a youngster and got what can be tagged a dream move to AC Milan.
Ever since, he’s donned the coveted Giallorossi shirt, played with the best, scored a hat-trick for the Super Eagles in the Confederations Cup, and has risen and fallen, for no fault of his.
Niggling, career-threatening injuries have held Odu back, but in this interview with Daily Times, the attacking midfielder says he is over the rejections he faced, and is back, better and fitter than ever to shine on the big stage again.
“It started when I went to Albania to play. I was invited by the popular Ze Maria, he heard I haven’t been playing since I left Milan and that this place is a nice place for me to play so people can see me again. I was convinced and really excited to play again. I signed and everyone were happy because I was coming from Milan. Everything was going well and after the seventh game that I’ve picked up playing again, I got injured again, a neck and clavicular dislocation, and it required surgery,” Oduamadi narrated.
“I was still in contact with people at Milan and I was sent for surgery and it was successful. I was out for about 5months. I got injured in October 2018 and came back in March 2019.
Then I played till the end of the season in Albania. I didn’t extend my stay because I didn’t play so many games due to the injury. I stayed out and received offers from many clubs but they thought I wasn’t playing because I was still injured. They saw me play and still thought I was injured. By December 2019, I was no longer receiving offers, they all just want to talk and when they get to the team they give no feedback.
”I had my surgery in Milan, and they gave me physio for my rehabilitation. Before I returned to Albania, I was passed fit.
“It was very complicated and I was given a 50-50 chance to survive surgery, I thank God I’m back and that it didn’t happen in any region of my legs.”
Oduamadi had a contract with Milan, and had a period that really made him dare to dream. His time at the San Siro was special as he teamed up with some of the best players in the world.
“I started playing there in the 2007/2008 season with the youth team, and I got to the senior team and won championship with them, I was sent on loans not because I can’t play but due to the players there, Ibrahimovic, Ronaldinho, Pato, Robinho, Inzaghi, Cassano, how will I play among those attacking players. People don’t understand, they keep saying I’m not playing because I’m not good,”
Luck may have shone on him when he starred for Nigeria at the Confederations Cup. He was offered a longer deal with Milan but feels he should have done something differently.
“When I went to the Confederations Cup and scored 3 goals against Tahiti, the vice president (Galliani) called my agent and said he doesn’t want me to go back to Nigeria, he wants me to come straight to Milan because they are offering me a contract and they gave me a five-year contract. I couldn’t say no, it’s a big team, it was the place I’ve been and I grew up, I accepted but didn’t get the chance to play, I won the championship though,”
Oduamadi regretted nothing with Milan but admitted he could have chosen another route.
“Really I won’t lie, there were opportunities that came. Teams were coming but I had a contract with Milan, I couldn’t say no, I had no say.
“My agent was the one to do all these, he called me that I’m to return to Milan after the Confederations Cup and that the vice president wants to see me and when I went they gave me the contract. It was a thing of joy but I made a mistake then taking that long contract, I should have taken a year or two and go somewhere else to play. I wouldn’t say I regretted it but that’s the way my story with Milan was.”
Odu’s story is more interesting, considering where he came from. While he’s not the first and only Nigerian to represent AC Milan, he, unlike most others gave a good account of himself despite his limited opportunities.
“Yeah, we got Taye Taiwo when he came (he didn’t come through this arrangement, he came from Marseille) I started playing with the youth team (from the streets of Nigeria),” another Nigerian who played for AC Milan was Harmony Ikande.
He told Daily Times that reflecting on how his career has gone, he believes his agent could have done a lot more to help him.
“For me I’d say yes, he tried but he didn’t push that well because I know I can play football, my fans know I can play, so they really want to see me.
“Back then in Nigeria I was called Robinho, so when Robinho came when I was in the youth team training with the first team, I saw him and told him “you are Robinho, in my country they call me Robinho” and he didn’t doubt it because he saw the way I play, similar to the way he plays. It was a good experience for me, playing alongside great players in the world.
(That pass to Ronaldinho against Juventus was amazing) it wasn’t the only game I played for Milan, I also played against Barcelona.“
The player has no regrets, and is looking forward to achieving a lot more in his career. Injuries might have pegged him back a lot, but he still has the resolve and passion for success.
“I won’t say I regretted anything, I didn’t, just that I was almost getting to peak and had this injury. You know injuries stopped me from playing so many games in the national team. I remember when I wanted to go to the World Cup I got injured, U17, U20, Olympics and even the senior team, they were just injuries.
“Each time I wanted to go it’s just injuries, but I thank God for everything now, I’m okay, no more injuries, I’m fine. I’m ready to go.
“I’m this kind of a guy, I don’t really talk too much, I let my playing talk for me. I just want to tell my fans, let them continue praying for me. I’m coming back with full force, they are not gonna regret it this time. I’m coming to give them, they’d see the Oduamadi they used to see then. I’m coming back in double force.”