When Chinedu Obasi was a teenager, he visited The Reebok Stadium as part of the Nigeria U17 squad. Watching Super Eagles legend Jay-Jay Okocha play for Bolton Wanderers, Obasi probably dreamed of emulating Okocha, to go on and play in The Premier League.
I read an interesting article from ESPN about Obasi this morning, stating that his move to England might have come a decade too late.
You see, at the start of his career, Chinedu Obasi was one of the brightest prospects Nigeria had to offer.
In 2005, Obasi was playing alongside fellow Nigerian John Obi Mikel for Norwegian side Lyn Oslo. At the time, it was reported that Chelsea had paid £400,000 to help fund the training of Obasi and Mikel, as well as Emmanuel Sarki and Ezekiel Bala.
The Nigerians were repeatedly invited to training camps with Chelsea.
While Mikel got embroiled in a transfer tug of war between Chelsea and Manchester United, Obasi remained at Lyn, making his debut in 2005.
That same year, Obasi shone at the FIFA World Youth Championships. The striker scored three times as Nigeria made it to the final, losing to a Lionel Messi led Argentina. Six years prior, Obasi was a ball boy at the same competiton.
His performances for Nigeria and Lyn grabbed the attention of some of Europe’s elite. Barcelona, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United were just some of the clubs linked in the early days.
Another one of his Lyn teammates, Ali Al-Habsi, also achieved his Premier League dream by joining Wanderers in 2006.
After eighteen months of playing for Lyn, Obasi was handed a chance to play in England, with trials at both Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth. Work permit issues derailed his Premier League dream, and instead, Obasi opted to sign for Germand 2nd Division side Hoffenheim in the Summer of 2007.
Within a season, Hoffenheim were promoted to The Bundesliga, thanks to the goalscoring prowess of Obasi and his striker partner, Demba Ba.
Obasi continued to be linked to top sides, his performance at the 2008 Olympics only adding to his glowing reputation.
Sadly for Obasi, his career has been blighted by injury.
A big move to Schalke for €5,000,000 in 2012 was plagued by injuries. Obasi failed to truly show his potential, scoring just five times in 52 games. After leaving Schalke three and a half years later, Obasi would be handed another chance to play in England.
This time, Big Sam’s Sunderland offered him a trial, but opted against signing him due to fitness issues.
In the Summer of 2016, Swedish side AIK signed Obasi. The striker managed to string some games together, and either side of a disappointing spell in China playing for Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Shenzhen, Chinedu Obasi scored 11 times in 19 games.
His road to Wanderers has been one filled with promise, but plagued by injury.
Like his fellow former Schalke teammate Jan Kirchhoff, if injuries hadn’t been so prevalent in Obasi’s career, he would almost certainly not be playing for Bolton Wanderers in The Championship.
Now 31 years old, Obasi is at Wanderers, hoping to score to goals to keep Bolton in The Championship, just like Okocha did in the Premier League fifteen years ago.