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Nigeria: Top 10 unforgettable moments of Finidi George’s football career

Finidi Smiles 2

Super Eagles head coach Finidi George was one of Nigeria’s most successful players in history and he is still regarded by many as the best right winger to ever play for the national team.

Finidi’s first three years in coaching as also been eventful and rewarding, throwing up a few memorable moments.

Soccernet.ng‘s Imhons Erons highlights the ten most unforgettable moments of Finidi’s career

1. Arrival at Ajax and Immediate Impact (1993)

Finidi earned his first Super Eagles call-up in 1989 and made his debut in 1991 while still playing in the Nigerian league.

As a result, his move from Sharks FC of Port Harcourt to AFC Ajax in 1993, made the top headlines across the country.

Despite his undeniable talent, not many expected Finidi to make the kind of instant impact he wrought when he was in Amsterdam, alongside compatriot Nwankwo Kanu.

Finidi’s impact was immediate as he quickly became Ajax’s number-one right winger, featured in 27 matches, scored four goals, and helped Ajax secure the Eredivisie title in his debut season.

It was Ajax’s first league win in four years and that successful campaign set the tone for the club’s dominance in Dutch football.

2. Champions League Triumph (1994-95)

One of the most memorable moments of Finidi George’s career was winning the UEFA Champions League with Ajax in the 1994-95 season.

As a starter, he played a crucial role in the team’s journey to the final.

While Kanu was a 53rd-minute substitute, Finidi played every single of their 1-0 victory over AC Milan in the final.

It is Ajax’s fourth and last (to date) Champions League triumph as they have not lifted another since Finidi left.

3. Record move to Real Betis

When it was time to leave Ajax, Finidi came close to signing for Real Madrid only for Real Betis to ambush their rivals and pull off the most sensational transfer move of the year.

Betis paid Ajax 1.024 billion pesetas (€10 million) to acquire Finidi, a La Liga transfer record at the time, overshadowing the €9.60 million Real Madrid spent to get Danish midfielder Michael Laudrup in 1994.

It was to be money well spent as Finidi enjoyed four exceptional years in Andalusia before leaving in 2000.

4. That Copa del Rey final performance vs Barcelona

Finidi played at seven different clubs (twice at Mallorca) during his career but at no other place did he feature in as many games or scored as many goals as he did with Real Betis.

They still love him in Seville for his crucial goals, his unique celebrations, and the Nigerian flavour that he added to their rich culture.

His first season remains unforgettable for many in Betis as he helped the team finish fourth in La Liga and reach the Copa del Rey final.

Betis lost that Copa del Rey final against Barcelona but it was probably the game that elevated Finidi to legendary status at the club.

 

With Betis having not won the Copa del Rey since 1977, Finidi nearly dragged them to the trophy, scoring to put them 2-1 up before Barca won the tie 3-2 after extra time.

5. Premier League stint with Ipswich Town

After departing Real Betis in 2000, Finidi spent a season at Mallorca before joining Ipswich Town in the Premier League.

Though his overall tenure in England was challenging, Finidi still managed six goals in 25 Premier League games for Ipswich.

His most notable performance for the club came when he scored twice in a 3-1 victory over Derby County at Portman Road.

6. African Cup of Nations Victory (1994)

Considered one of Nigeria’s greatest wingers, Finidi had so many memorable moments in the green and white kits of the Super Eagles.

Physically strong and blessed with deceptive pace, accurate crosses, and efficient dribbles, Finidi was a constant feature for Nigeria for more than ten years.

He impressed as Nigeria finished third at the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations but helping the Eagles claim the trophy at the 1994 edition trumps that.

It was the moment that solidified Finidi’s legacy in African football.

7. Memorable World Cup Celebration

After conquering Africa, Nigeria’s next aim was to give a good account of themselves at their first appearance at the FIFA World Cup in the United States.

The Super Eagles wowed the rest of the world with their brilliant displays, scoring seven goals in four games and reaching the knockout stage.

Finidi scored one of Nigeria’s goals in the 2-0 victory against Greece in a group-stage match.

His celebration, mimicking a urinating dog, became one of the most memorable and talked-about moments of the tournament, highlighting his playful personality and flair.

8. Coaching Career Begins with Enyimba FC

After transitioning to coaching, Finidi began working with youth teams in Spain, with hopes of handling one of Nigeria’s youth teams – the Golden Eaglets or the Flying Eagles.

However, Finidi took many by surprise when he turned down opportunities in the lower leagues in Spain to take up the vacant head coach position at Enyimba FC in September 2021.

This move marked the beginning of his managerial career, with hopes of translating his on-field success to the sidelines.

9. Winning the Nigeria Premier League (2023)

Finidi’s coaching credentials were solidified when he led Enyimba FC to win the Nigeria Premier League on June 11, 2023.

The Aba Elephants had finished in third position in the league during the regular campaign.

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However, Finidi guided Enyimba to success at the season-ending Super Six tournament, where the Elephants overcame all challenges to be crowned the NPFL champions.

It was Finidi’s first major title as a coach and one that underscored his ability to lead and inspire a team from the bench.

10. Appointed Coach of the Nigerian National Team

In April 2024, Finidi George was appointed as the head coach of the Nigerian national football team.

This prestigious role came after a successful stint as an assistant coach to Jose Peseiro, who led Nigeria to a second-place finish at the 2023 AFCON.

Finidi also handled the Super Eagles briefly as the interim manager, where he notably led the team to a historic 2-1 victory over Ghana, ending an 18-year winless streak against their rivals.

Three years ago, Finidi was not in the conversation about the best Nigerian coaches in the land. Such debates often revolved around Sunday Oliseh, Samson Siasia, and Emmanuel Amunike.

The way Finidi has worked his way to the country’s number-one coaching job will go down in history as one of the most unforgettable achievements of his career.

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