Sunday Oliseh (€10 million) (2/20)

“It’s very good to be back home.” Sunday Oliseh only spent two seasons at AFC Ajax, but the impact the club had on him is clear. The former Nigerian midfielder was speaking at a youth team match at De Toekomst in 2011 – five years after his retirement. Oliseh’s career winded through Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Italy, but the career of the soft-spoken man began in his native Nigeria.

Born in Abavo – a southern village about a three-hour drive away from Jay-Jay Okocha’s birthplace of Enugu – in 1974, Sunday Oliseh began his footballing career in the big city of Lagos. As a teenager, he moved to Belgium to play for RFC Lüttich. The defensive midfielder progressed enough to move to Serie A side Reggiana in 1994 at the age of 19.  Sunday’s silky-smooth skills, exceptional physical play, and passing vision earned him a €1.5 million move to Köln in Germany the next summer.

Oliseh’s ability to cover the defense of the German side for two seasons, as well as his knack for scoring some important goals, drew interest from none other than Ajax Amsterdam. Two seasons removed from their Champions League triumph, Ajax purchased the 22-year-old midfielder for €2.3 million. Often used as a centre-half in an attacking Ajax system, Sunday Oliseh still managed to score eight goals in 54 Godenzonen appearances from 1997 to 1999. The Nigerian also made a name for himself on the world stage, scoring a memorable goal to help the Super Eagles down the mighty Spanish 3-2.

Oliseh moved on from Amsterdam to Turin, finding himself subject to a 10 million Euro transfer to Juventus in 1999. The masterful midfielder won a league title and two Dutch Cups during his stint at Ajax and still has many fond memories of his admittedly short time with us. Unfortunately, Oliseh wasn’t able to stamp his play style on The Old Lady, so he was once again off to a different club the next summer – this time back to Germany: Borussia Dortmund.

Sunday Oliseh’s influence wasn’t quite as large in Germany as in Amsterdam, but he managed to help Dortmund win the 2001/02 Bundesliga title as a rotational option. A loan spell in 03/04 with VfL Bochum signaled a downturn in his Dortmund career, and in 2005 he moved back to Belgium to play out his final season with KRC Genk. Sunday Oliseh retired in 2006 as a fantastic player, yet one who never quite settled in one place. His fondest memories will probably be of his times at Ajax, as the Nigerian appeared 76 times for the Amsterdammers – more than at any other club.

Now a days, you will find Oliseh managing Dutch second division side Fortuna Sittard. He had spells as a manager in Belgium and even for the Nigerian national team, but the draw of the Netherlands seems too strong for him not to have come back. Oliseh is an intelligent man – his calm demeanor and understanding of the game makes you wonder just how far he can progress in the game as a coach. Could we possibly see Sunday Oliseh return to Ajax in a managerial role one day? I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibilities.

Written by Alex Dieker

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Crossbar Post, as well as a writer for AjaxDaily and lover of all things Ajax!