More than a decade after taking ownership of Italian side Spezia, the Italian businessman bids farewell to football, hailing the Nigerian youngster who made the adventure worth the troubles
Outgoing owner of Spezia FC, Gabriele Volpi, has praised Club Brugge’s forward David Chidozie Okereke as his favourite football player during his 12-year spell at the helm of affairs at the Italian club.
Volpi purchased Spezia in 2008 with the club stuck in Serie D, which was the country’s fifth division at the time.
Twelve years later, Spezia made history by achieving Serie A promotion for the first time, progressing at the expense of Frosinone in the Serie B play-offs.
Having moved from Italy to Nigeria in the 1970s and held the African country’s citizenship, Volpi has Nigerian connections and always ensured that Spezia paraded stars from that nation at different times.
Almeria’s Umar Sadiq, Abdullahi Suleiman, Theophilus Awua, and Isah Eliakwu are among no fewer than eight Nigerians to have featured for the Little Eagles in the last decade.
But one Nigerian stood head and shoulders above all others for Volpi.
Born in Lagos in 1997, Okereke arrived in Italy as a starry-eyed ten-year-old eager to learn, improve and forge a career for himself in the beautiful game.
And under the watchful eyes of Volpi, Okereke developed into a versatile forward, and made his professional debut in Serie B for Spezia on 9 April 2016 in a game against Novara.
The Nigeria youth international, however, enjoyed his best campaign for Vicenzo Italiano-tutored side during the 2018–19 season, when he scored ten goals and provided 12 assists in 33 games.
On 9 July 2019, Belgian giants Club Brugge shelled out €8 million to sign the forward on a four-year deal.
Volpi, who has sold Spezia to an American investment firm, is still pleased with how that particular story turned out.
“My favourite player is Okereke. He arrived in Italy from Nigeria when he was ten,” the oil magnate told TuttoSports, as per TuttoMercato.
“He started with us from the Primavera, he played the Viareggio Tournament and then the Serie B with the First team.
“We sold him to Bruges two years ago.”
Okereke is still trying to find his feet in the Belgian First Division A, despite winning the league title with Club Brugge last season.
The 23-year-old has only managed 15 goals and two assists in 60 matches for the champions across all competitions.