Venezia striker David Okereke has hit town again for another Italian Job and he seems to be enjoying it, says IKENWA NNABUOGOR…
It was hoped that David Okereke would be Belgium Best when Club Brugge broke the “European Bank” to snap him away from Spezia in the Italian second-tier league, but their investment in him seemed to be heading to the rocks after one year of sparkling performance and hence his visit to Venice to learn more about his trade.
The blue half of the Belgian ancient city known for lace materials and crafts had princely forked out a king’s ransom of €8 million to make the former Spezia striker their record signing and they hoped for an instant return on investment.
But Okereke seemed not to have fully pulled off the Italian Job he brought along from Spezia, finding the going very tough after his first season in Belgium and he had to be ferried back, this time to Venice, to put his acts together and be fully prepared to be welcomed back in Brugge a finished article.
Spezia in the Seria B had welcomed the hitherto unknown Nigerian in 2015 as a 17-year-old to begin his European adventure and just few years down the line he attracted a huge price tag for all his sweat in Italy.
Okereke had started like a house on fire as Club Brugge continued their tradition of investing in Nigerians in their attacking line, with the successes of Joseph Akpala and Manasseh Ishiaku still very documented and after blowing hot and cold he managed to fire nine goals in 28 league appearances his first season.
Pressures from home fans had begun to hit badly on Okereke in his second season as goals became few and far between and the Club Brugge eggs heads were not smiling with their Nigerian acquisition.
Lack of sharpness in front goal had given way to irregular selections and, eventually bench selection, as Okereke battled to burst the nets for which he crossed over from Italy.
Dutch youngster Noa Lang and ex-ball boy and home-grown talent Charles De Ketelaere were maturing with time and getting the goals as Okereke didn’t.
Intelligent and smart Okereke was ever ready to roll up his sleeves to do the job, but it wasn’t just what he expected and it appeared he would return to familiar Italy to finish his Italian Job.
The “city of Canals” built over 118 Islands, known for Gondola rides, beautiful bridges and carnival celebrations caught Okereke and his fascinations of the Italian job had begun before he would settle down.
But Okereke’s not in town for the Gondola rides and he has since proved this just few months of his arrival on loan from Belgium.
Okereke started from the dugout in his new job, but it was in Week 3 on Venezia’s trip to Empoli that he started to prove his mission, netting the winner in a 3-1 win.
He would follow up with a cheeky effort a month later when Jose Mourinho and Roma came visiting for a sweet, winning goal in their famous 3-2 victory.
His latest effort was the lone goal victory at Bologna after the FIFA recess, wrapping up three of his four goals away from home.
Okereke was Mourinho’s kill joy that even got the ‘Special One’ admiring his cheeky effort, after making fool of Roma goalkeeper Rui Patricio for winner, and perhaps leaving Mourinho wishing Okereke continued his new Italian job in the Italian capital.
Not that Okereke was lacking in suitors out of Italy when the going got tough at Brugge, but the Italian job wasn’t yet finished and going back there was the best he needed to put his acts together again for a much improved shot in Belgium.
Milan-based Benny Itorho of the Pro-One Sports Intermediaries, is one of his representatives and also behind the player’s return to Italy, believes Okereke hasn’t started yet.
“I’m not surprised Okereke is showing what he could do in front of goal at Venezia,” he assured.
“He’s one great striker who can turn any game around and I would say he’s on the right course.
“He started his career in Italy and coming back home to prove he knows his way to goal is a clear indication that Brugge got a good player in their hands.
“Brugge are a huge club whose investment in Okereke I must say is still very much intact.
“He’s a great team player as well as a top notch individual talent whose bag of tricks is impressive.
“By the time he goes back to Brugge, he would be turbo-charged to prove his huge money price tag.”
No doubt, Okereke is on a pretty detailed way back to Brugge and he is already ticking all the right boxes.
He appears he will surely come good to start delivering the goodies when he returns to Brugge in the summer.
Who knows he could still be snatched from the multiple Belgian champions as many suitors are keeping tabs?
But before then he got a job to do for which he got a full licence to execute.
It could get more interesting for Okereke as the season rolls by judging by his efforts so far and confidence on his way to goal.