Siena unearthed a gem in the form of Innocent Emeghara in January. Dylan Fahy documents the striker’s quick-fire rise in Serie A.
Innocent Emeghara was a sight to behold on Monday night. The Siena striker was at the forefront of a shock 3-0 victory over Lazio, but aside from his choice to sport a different brand of boot on each foot, his incredible brace genuinely caught the eye. The Tuscan outfit’s results have positively surged since sporting director Stefano Antonelli stumbled upon him plying his trade in North-West France.
“At Udinese I monitored football all over the world,” explained Antonelli. “I was curious about this lad, so I made the most of that knowledge when I went to Siena.” The 23-year-old was signed under the radar on a loan until the end of the season from Lorient with an option to purchase for €3m in June. Since then the Swiss international of Nigerian descent has been a revelation at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. In his full debut the striker masterminded another shock victory by toying with a lacklustre Inter defence and announced himself around the peninsula.
His perfectly timed movement, abundance of strength and blistering pace were simply too much for Andrea Stramaccioni’s men to handle in the Bianconeri’s 3-1 victory. Since then the forward has gone on to net in a draw at Bologna before capping off a roller-coaster month in Tuscany with his man of the match performance against the Biancocelesti.
Emeghara has always had a habit of settling quickly. “I grew up in a village near the Nigerian capital of Lagos. You cannot even begin to imagine what life was like there, with poverty and disease, but it proved to be the perfect gym,” admitted the youngster to La Gazzetta dello Sport. “My mother moved us to Switzerland and it took a while to settle to the changes, but eventually I did.”
Emeghara made his name at Grasshoppers with a hatful of goals and earned a call-up to represent his adopted country at the Under-21 European Championships in 2011. The striker featured predominantly alongside the likes of Xherdan Shaquiri and Yann Sommer in a respected side that reached the final against Spain - only to be outdone by the stars such as David de Gea, Thiago Alcantara and Juan Mata.
Lorient snapped him up from the Swiss Super League, and the natural conclusion was another barrage of strikes in Ligue 1. However, he fell out of favour this season after taking part tin the London Olympics against the club’s will. The recent January transfer window opened and Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua enquired, as they were in the midst of looking for a replacement for Didier Drogba at the time.
“I was too young for China” admitted Emeghara, but the move to Siena guaranteed a prolonged fight at the bottom of Serie A in a tense relegation battle. The striker was not fazed and has already propelled the club out of their general position of rock bottom, having started the campaign with a six-point penalty for their part in the recent Calcioscommesse scandal.
His transfer to Siena coincided with Mario Balotelli’s €20m return to Italy with Milan. The comparison is rather stark, as the former Manchester City man has scored on four occasions in three appearances with an average of 6.3 shots per game. Emeghara has three starts and one brief cameo as a substitute, but has also scored four with an average of 1.8 shots.
“I only want to help out the team and when that happens I am happy,” revealed the shrewd January signing. Only time will tell if Siena can survive with him leading the line, but should he move on once more in June they would surely be guaranteed a hefty return.