Michael Emenalo is most influential African in Europe, says Kanu

Chelsea FC Technical Director Michael Emenalo Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Former Nigeria captain Nwankwo Kanu has described Michael Emenalo as the most influential African in European football.

Emenalo, who turns 52 on Thursday, is the Technical Director at Premier League club Chelsea where he has oversight over the club's academy and scouting departments.

"From his position at Chelsea he pulls a lot of strings, and I can't think of another African in a similar position in Europe," Kanu, a two-time African Player of the Year, told KweséESPN.

"He is in a very strong place where he takes care of everything from the academy and all the way to the first team."

Kanu, who spent a big part of his playing career in England, says Emenalo has earned his position on merit

"For anyone, especially an African to get to a position like that, you need to know what you are doing and then have a bit of luck to have the contacts and connections."

Emenalo was brought to Chelsea by Avram Grant who knew the Nigerian from his time in Israel with Maccabi Haifa, but Kanu says his countryman has more than earned his stripes.

"You can have all the contacts and connections and if you don't have the skill to deliver, you will not get anywhere.

"Emenalo has shown that he has what it takes to succeed because he has the knowledge to give the club exactly what they want. He has a good relationship with the club and its owners, and he is a hardworking person who does what the club needs him to do and looks out for the interest of the club."

Despite the influential position of the Nigerian, there has not quite been an African influx at Chelsea, but Kanu says that is not an issue

"We have had Drogba there, we have had Mikel, Moses, Omeruo and some of the young boys in the academy. But that is not the issue. The truth is that if he doesn't see what the club wants in a player, he cannot just sign them because they are Africans," he said.

On a personal level, Kanu has even more praise for Emenalo.

"I've met him a lot of times when I have been at Chelsea. He is a calm guy, not somebody who talks a lot. Not aggressive in the sense that when you meet him, he is very approachable.

"He is a very hard worker, just like he was as a player. He is till working hard outside the football pitch. That is what drives him and he is still moving on and growing in strength."