Former Arsenal and Ajax great Marc Overmars cast a nostalgic gaze over his career and reckons former teammates Kanu Nwankwo and Finidi George had special talents in their Ajax days despite a lack of structured football upbringing in their native Nigeria.
The trio was members of the famous Ajax team between 1993 and 1996 during which they won the UEFA Champions League before the Nigerians left, Kanu for Italy’s Inter Milan and Finidi to Spain’s Real Betis.
Overmars spent another year at the Dutch giants before moving to Arsenal where he was reunited with Kanu and where they both became integral members of the ‘Invincible’ Arsenal side which went a whole season unbeaten.
The former Netherlands international flew back to north London to star in the Arsenal Legends’ 4-2 victory over Milan Glorie and gushed over his ex-teammates as Kanu stole the headlines.
Back at his clinical best, Kanu’s well-taken hat-trick was the main talking point after the final whistle, but his performance came as no surprise to Marc, who remembers the first time he saw the former Nigeria striker play.
“I don’t think Kanu had ever played on a normal pitch before he joined us at Ajax,” the Dutchman laughs. “He didn’t know where to run. I remember once he had to take a throw-in and we called for the ball, so he pushed the ball out from his chest!
“These guys didn’t have the education as young players but we saw in the first training session that they were special. Kanu had so much quality and it was the same with Finidi George. They had something that we didn’t have. We had all learned how to play football on the streets, but their football upbringing was much more raw, and you can see how they benefitted from that.”
Marc certainly has lots to get excited about this year. Not only have Ajax qualified for the knockout stage of the Europa League, the club’s under-19s are also looking good in the Youth League.
With a first-team, academy, women’s team and the Ajax’s finances to oversee, you’d think Marc wouldn’t have the time to keep an eye on his former clubs’ results – but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I still love Arsenal and that is the same for my wife and two children,” he says. “We follow them, we support Arsenal and we also try to visit the training ground once a year to have coffee with the boss or Steve Bould. It’s very important that there are still people working for Arsenal who were there 20 or 25 years ago. I like traditions and I have respect for the past. That’s why if we go back to visit Arsenal, it gives us a good feeling.”
Original interview in http://www.arsenal.com