Why Newcastle want Michael Emenalo as director of football, from reshaping Chelsea's youth system to signing Hazard

FORMER Chelsea director of football Michael Emenalo is in line for a senior role at Newcastle United.

The Nigerian, 56, has emerged as the No1 target to fulfil the same position he did with the Blues from 2011-2017,where he is credited with building the infrastructure for their incredible youth academy.

With his army of scouts he helped identify Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Mo Salah and Romelu Lukaku as signings for the club.

Noble Emenalo also offered to resign when Jose Mourinho returned in 2013 – believing the Special One wouldn't want to work with a director of football.

This is why the Magpies are desperate for his know-how, as they begin their own revolution following a Saudi takeover.


Emenalo, himself, was a talented player.

An international, he played for his country in the 1994 World Cup – coming up against Diego Maradona and having to mark the-then best player in the world, Roberto Baggio.

Experiences in Belgium, Germany and on our shores with Notts County prepared him for what would happen next.

10 years after calling time on his career after a spell in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv, he was appointed as a head of opposition scout at Chelsea, when Avram Grant was in charge.

His knowledge struck a chord with owner Roman Abramovich, who kept him on when Grant was sacked following defeat in the 2008 Champions League final.

"Mr Abramovich validated me after two and a half months,” Emenalo told The Guardian.

"I didn’t apply for any of my roles. I came in as head of opposition scout, to help Avram Grant, and met Roman a few times. Apparently what I said made sense to the owner."

By 2011, Emenalo was named as the club's director of football.


Abramovich trusted the international relations and diplomacy graduate with shaping his vision for the club.

The first task was reinventing the failing youth system. However, that wasn't easy while trying to build a team that could win things to appease the Russian.

“My argument was that all big clubs had great academies. Ajax, Barcelona, Real Madrid," Emenalo revealed.

"But creating a new identity at Chelsea, rooted in the academy, while his ambition is to win trophies, was difficult.”

The infamous Chelsea loan system, which has seen somewhere in the region of 30-plus players getting game time elsewhere, was Emenalo's brainchild.

He wanted older youth players to play 45 games a season, so they could get used to the gruelling demands of the game.

Emenalo recalled: "At first everybody said: 'Nobody’s come from the academy.’ But a kid who comes to the academy at seven won’t be ready to challenge Frank Lampard when he’s 19.

"It became key to look at that space between 19 and 22 where we can prepare him to be a Chelsea player."

The fruits of Emenalo's labour have seen fruition in the last few years with the likes of Reece James, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount following that pathway to the first team, even earning Three Lions recognition.


Well before they became established stars, Emenalo identified Belgium was a hotbed of emerging talent.

He had scouts monitoring players across the globe, but there were glowing reports regularly about wonderkids at Genk and Anderlecht.

"My scouts had identified something was happening in Belgium. Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Chadli, Vertonghen, Courtois," he said.

"The manager looked at me and said: ‘When did Belgium become Brazil? Who’s this Kevin De Bruyne?’

"I told him: ‘I don’t look at passports. I just watch the player. And this player doesn’t miss a pass. I don’t know if he will be a superstar but there’s something here.'"

Unfortunately for the West Londoners, De Bruyne was the one who they missed a trick on.

"He was 18, a super talent, but the first time I mentioned that De Bruyne can eventually replace Lampard there was a guffaw of laughter," Emenalo divulged.

Following a successful loan to Werder Bremen and just three Premier League appearances for Chelsea, De Bruyne was snapped up by Wolfsburg for £20million, and the rest is history.

Not all of those Belgian talents disappeared though, with Hazard going on to become a club legend by scoring 110 goals for the club.

Lukaku is now back leading the line for Thomas Tuchel's side while Courtois is between the sticks at Real Madrid after seven brilliant years at Stamford Bridge.


As is his dignity, Emenalo was prepared to walk away from the club in 2013.

The return of Jose Mourinho prompted him to hand in his resignation, under the belief that the Portuguese wouldn't be interested in working with a director of football and youth stars would be sidelined.

However, Abramovich refused to let Emenalo quit. Instead, the billionaire backed his man.

"We signed Pedro from Barcelona for £30m. It was a good opportunity for me to say: 'That’s why we need the academy. Either you put £12m into the academy and develop Ruben Loftus-Cheek or you pay £30m to Barcelona for a 28-year-old.'

"It was the end of the discussion. The academy became even more important to Chelsea."

Emenalo outlasted Mourinho at Cobham. In fact, he saw 10 managers come and go before he eventually left the club in 2017.

He has been out of football since 2019, after a short spell at Monaco.

Reports suggest he is itching to get back. What better project to have than the richest club in the world, who are starting all over again from scratch, that will listen to ideas of how to grow.

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