Former Flying Eagles and Super Eagles defender Gbenga Okunowo in this interview with Completesportsnigeria.com‘s JAMES AGBEREBI recalls his time with Barcelona (1998 to 2001, including a loan spell at Benfica), the Super Eagles and Russia 2018 and the return leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 between Barcelona and Chelsea…
What are you into at present?
Well, I have been silent for sometime now, but things have been good, I am still involved in football as a scout, helping young players to go to Europe and also scout for the Nigerian team. So that is what I am doing now.
You played for the Super Eagles, so what do you think about this present squad?
I really like what is currently happening in the team now. The NFF, committees, everybody is working hard. We all can see that things are changing with the team. If we continue like this, we will be back where we used to be.
Having played with the likes of Austin Okocha, Sunday Oliseh and Nwankwo Kanu, how can you compare that team to the present squad?
I think this current squad should learn from what the likes of Okocha, Oliseh, Kanu were doing back then. I believe they can even do more than them now. We used to have players who played in some of Europe’s biggest clubs. So if we can have players in big clubs, I believe we will have a solid team like we used to.
Talking about playing for the biggest clubs then, how was it possible for you to play for Barcelona?
It was all about hardwork right from home. From the U-17s, U-20s up to the Super Eagles. So it’s about hardwork and I am advising the current players to continue to work hard.
As a former Barcelona player, are you still in contact with the club?
I just came back from Barcelona three weeks ago. I have contact with them. If I have very talented players in Nigeria, I will surely take them to Barcelona. I am still eating, drinking and moving with Barcelona.
Do you still keep in contact with your teammates like Rivaldo, Luis Figo and others?
We meet up during Barcelona Legends games.
Barcelona will be facing Chelsea in the return leg of the Champions League after clinching a 1-1 away draw, what are your thoughts on the game?
It will be difficult to predict who will win between both teams. I would have an idea of who might win based on the system on display by the two teams, the players on parade. So that’s when I can say categorically who will win.
How would you rate this present Barcelona side compared to Pep Guardiola and Louis Van Gaal’s team?
Barcelona have this structure that whoever is appointed as manager must follow. So that’s why Barcelona keep moving up. That’s the way they train their youth.