Nigerian legend Ikpeba credits Wenger for shaping his career

Friday, January 24th, 2020 00:00 |
Nigerian legend Victor Ikpeba (centre) with Bandari FC officials when he conducted clinics with the team in Mombasa yesterday. Photo/PD/BONIFACE MSANGI

Former Nigeria football super star Victor Ikpeba has attributed his rise to the top of the sport to legendary soccer manager Arsene Wenger.

Ikpeba, who retired from active football in 2005 after a successful career of more than 17 years of plying his trade for top European clubs, Wenger who retired from English Premier Club, Arsenal, but was then French outfit Monaco, spotted him while playing for RFC Liege in Belgium in 1993 and signed him at the Ligue 1 side.

“That was the turning point in my career. I can openly attribute my success to Arsene Wenger. He is the best coach in the world, because he knows how to manage young players and superstars as well and get the best from them,” he said.

“He trusted me, gave me a chance in the first team and I didn’t disappoint. Even though I played under him for only 18 months before he left for Japan, by the time he was leaving, I was already a regular in the team and many teams in Europe were after my services,” Ikpeba added of Wenger who was replaced by Jean Tigana when he left for Japanese side Nagoya Grampus. 

Ikpeba, who is in the country for the annual Soya Awards to be held in Mombasa today, was discovered by RFC Liege during the 1989 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

He has also had stints with Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund and Real Betis in the Spanish La Liga.

“At Monaco, the competition was so high and you just had to be at your best to make it to the first team and that’s what improved my game everyday.

Wenger turned me from a winger to a forward, so we combined in attack with Brazilian Sonny Anderson and by then French strikers Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet were in the youth team but very promising and threatened the positions of senior players,” remembers Ikpeba. 

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