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Soccer News of Saturday, 13 November 2021


Maduka Okoye: Contract extension couldn’t ward off predators

Watford signee, Maduka Okoye Watford signee, Maduka Okoye

With the rate at which top European clubs are monitoring his progress, it was obvious that Sparta Rotterdam would need more than a contract extension to keep Maduka Okoye at the Het Kasteel. It therefore came as no surprise when Premier League side, Watford signed the Nigerian safe hand during the week

After a scintillating performance last season Sparta Rotterdam talked Maduka Okoye into signing a contract extension which will keep him at the club till 2025, but that did not stop the Vicarage Road side from snatching away the Nigerian from the Sparta faithful.

Watford on Monday agreed a deal to sign Maduka Okoye from Sparta Rotterdam for £5million.

The Sparta’s player of the year, has signed a five-and-a-half-year deal that will begin on January 1. However, the 22-year-old will spend the rest of the 2021-22 season back with Sparta Rotterdam on loan.

‘Watford FC is pleased to announce that it has reached agreement to sign highly-rated young goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, on a five-and-a-half-year deal that will begin on January 1, 2022,’ read a statement on the club’s website.

‘A regular starter for the Dutch club, Okoye has lined up between the sticks in each of their games so far this season, while he has made 13 appearances for his country since debuting in a 1-1 draw with Brazil in 2019.

‘The 6ft 6in shot-stopper’s consistent displays for both club and country have seen him linked with some of Europe’s biggest clubs, but he has now put pen to paper on a long-term deal with the Golden Boys.

Okoye has played every minute this season but only kept his first clean sheet in the Eredivisie this term last Saturday, with Sparta Rotterdam 16th in the standings with 10 points after 12 games.

“I’m overwhelmed to sign for Watford FC, to play in the Premier League is something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little boy.”

“I can’t wait to get started with the team upcoming 22/23 season and I wish the club all the best for the rest of the season”. Okoye posted on his Twitter account.

Rumour was rife during the summer window that French Ligue 1 side, OGC Nice have a opened a line of communication with the Super Eagles first choice goalkeeper over a transfer in the near future but it was later debunked.

On the back of his excellent performances in 2020-2021, Sparta Rotterdam extended Okoye’s contract in August and they are hoping to make a tidy profit if he is sold before June 2025.

The German-born goalie played for the youth teams of Bayer Leverkusen and Fortuna Düsseldorf prior to his transfer to Sparta Rotterdam in July 2020.

Okoye however said he holds a special affection for German lower division side Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Okoye’s career has been on the upward trajectory following a string of eye-catching displays for Sparta Rotterdam. Still, the youngster insists he would not hesitate to make a return to Fortuna should the opportunity present itself.

Born in Dusseldorf, Germany, Okoye grew up dreaming of one day featuring for his hometown club. It was going according to plan when the young gloveman left Bayer Leverkusen’s youth team to join Fortuna Düsseldorf II in the summer of 2017.
His talent was hard to hide, and he quickly became the Regionalliga West side’s first-choice goalkeeper, and there were plans in place to hand him a long-term contract.

But Uwe Klein replaced Lutz Pfannenstiel at Fortuna, and the new Sports Director was not keen on keeping Okoye at the club.
The Super Eagles goalkeeper eventually departed for the Netherlands in 2019 to join Sparta Rotterdam, and it has been nothing short of a successful move.

Rated as one of the best goalkeepers in the Eredivisie and established as the Super Eagles’ number one shot-stopper, the sky seems to be the starting point for the 21-year-old.

Still, it is hard for Okoye to forget Fortuna Dusseldorf, and he admits he has unfinished business with the German club.
“Düsseldorf is my home, Fortuna is my heart club,” Okoye said
“If I ever have the opportunity to return to Fortuna, I wouldn’t have to think twice. The heart would decide – and of course for Fortuna.”

The German-born goalie’s profile has been on the rise since the youngster became a Nigerian international. He made his debut for the Super Eagles against Brazil in October 2019 when he was valued at €150,000 and still struggling at Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Okoye switched to Sparta Rotterdam in 2020 and has since become the number one goalkeeper for the Super Eagles.
Okoye has featured eight times for Sparta this term, conceding 16 goals.
Just days before Nigerian senior football team Coach, Gernot Rohr named his squad for the Super Eagles’ final two games of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign, he declared Okoye as Nigeria’s first-choice goalkeeper
“No. 1 is Maduka,” Rohr told ESPN. “These decisions, I take them with goalkeeper coach Alloy Agu because he is a specialist for goalkeeper training.

“Myself and Alloy, we agreed that it’s actually Maduka. We have the experienced Daniel Akpeyi doing well with this club in South Africa.

“We have the young Francis Uzoho coming back after injury, but he has to play also now not only on the bench. We have also Matthew Yakubu. There’s a good potential now because this position was a big problem for us so we have more now.”

Rohr’s comments then provided official confirmation of Okoye’s current status but it is by no means the end of the journey, as Nigeria have been on a goalkeeping merry-go-round since Vincent Enyeama’s abrupt retirement in 2016.

Reacting to the news that he is Nigeria’s number one goalkeeper, Okoye said: “I was very delighted and honoured because representing this beautiful country as the number one goalkeeper is something special.

“I am happy that Gernot Rohr chose me and I am going to pay back with good performance.”