Flamboyant and tough-tackling defender Taribo West has revealed he was sent packing from Italian giants AC Milan by no other force than The Mafia. He also said Liverpool made a bid for him only for him to end up at Derby County.
IKENWA NNABUOGOR takes a look back at the career of Taribo West, who gave everything when he wore a Super Eagles shirt.
Previously raw and untested Taribo West was destined to come out best. Dreadlocked, scary-looking, super strong, sharp and daring, the defunct Ijebu-ode-based side Obanta United gave this Port Harcourt youngster a chance and he refused to leave his foot off the throttle thereafter.
Rough as a diamond, West was always in for bigger things as bigger clubs like Enugu Rangers and Julius Berger FC saw huge potential in him and gave him a chance.
The chance he took with both hands when the legendary French coach and discoverer of talents, Guy Roux, added him to his retinue of young talents at Auxerre in 1993. That was the biggest break West needed in his career that blossomed beyond his wildest imaginations.
West grabbed Roux’s confidence in him with both hands even though Roux had some refining job to do on the young defender. Soon, his rough edges were polished by Roux who had so much confidence in him.
West bestrode the French Lique 1 like a bastion and very little passed him as he bullied, harassed and harried strikers who broke so much sweat to glide past him on their way to goal.
West was always getting his job done, his partnership with France ex-international and captain Laurent Blanc kept things a lot tighter at the rear as they made history by winning the French League title in the 1995/96 season.
Auxerre were not going hold on too long to West as they cashed in big time by selling him to Italian giants Inter Milan. It was as good as it got for West as the world began to take serious note as his blue and black painted dreadlocks endeared him to Inter faithful.
West was growing from strength to strength and subsequently made the most audacious move in his career history to rivals and one of European biggest clubs, AC Milan.
It was almost going to be impossible for an African defender to bench Allesandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini. Such was the onerous mountainous task West was saddled with. That was the beginning of West’s problems at Milan.
West told yours truly that the Mafia and fans would not have none of it that an African defender would play ahead of their gods including veteran Franco Baresi, who was then in the swan song of his career.
“The Mafia would do anything in their powers to make sure I was done away with at Milan,” West had told me then.
“They cooked a vicious story in the press that I was injured in the desperate bid to send me out of Milan.
“The doctors were bribed to say I was injured, but it was a lie. They did that because they felt it was unthinkable for a African player to take the place of those three aging defenders.
“Liverpool came with an offer, but at the end of the day, I had to settle for Derby County.”
West would have ruled the world had the powers that be, the Mafia world in Milan not stopped him.
Meanwhile, West was a rocky as his skillful self in the heart of Eagles defence.
For yours truly, West remains my best all-time best defender in Nigeria and his Eagles’ record still speaks for him.
West made his Eagles’ debut in May 1994 in an international friendly against Sweden and left a lasting impression that coach Jo Bonfrere thought he was worth some more try. West never looked back.
Chidi Nwanu’s Eagles time was as good as over after the US’94 World Cup paving the way for the then Auxerre rookie. By the time former Eagles’ captain Okechukwu Uche left the scene after the World Cup in France in 1998, West had established himself as the undisputed number one choice in the heart of defence. He never gave little.
West remained his super old self at the rear for his country as he became a journey-man pro transversing Europe and later, Qatar and Iran, but that was in the twilight of his Eagles career.
West was best in an Eagles’ shirt, no doubt…