Emenike: I'm on cloud nine in Turkey
© AFP

"Everything is going great. I'm really happy with my form and delighted with my team's performances. The mood at the club is buzzing. I'm on cloud nine," Emmanuel Emenike told FIFA.com.

The Fenerbahce and Nigeria striker's happiness is infectious. His high spirits are in keeping with his dazzling displays on the pitch – he has eight goals in 17 appearances for his club this season – and the personal goal he has set for himself: "To give the fans something to cheer about by winning trophies."

Emenike's eagerness to savour his Turkish delight is understandable, considering the trials and tribulations he went through to get where he is today. This 5'11, 90 kg marksman's road to fulfilling his dream of becoming a professional footballer was a long and arduous one.

While as a youngster at Delta Force, he regularly had to walk to training – a journey that took him one and a half hours – although nowadays he cruises to Fenerbahce's Can Bartu Tesisleri training ground in a luxurious saloon car. Aged just 20, he was forced to up sticks and leave his family to go and live in South Africa, where he signed his first professional contract. Now he is regarded as one of the finest African players in Europe, a status reflected in his pay packet.

"The move to Karabukspor was the turning point," noted the 26-year-old. "I was playing in South Africa, but I dreamed of bettering myself in Europe.

"I was given the chance to have a few trials in Turkey and they put their faith in me. After that everything came together."

Everything is going great. I'm really happy with my form and delighted with my team's performances. The mood at the club is buzzing. I'm on cloud nine.
Fenerbahce and Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike on playing in Turkey

Emenike's decision to try his luck in Turkey in 2009 came after having failed to set the world alight in Cape Town, where he scored just once in 16 appearances. However, he became an instant fan favourite at the Blue Flame, firing the Karabuk-based outfit to promotion to the top flight with 16 goals. He followed that up with 14 goals in his first season in the Super Lig, catching the eye of Fenerbahce, who duly snapped him up in 2011.

From Russia with love
However, a match-fixing enquiry – he was subsequently acquitted – derailed Emenike's move to Fenerbahce and the two parties temporarily went their separate ways. The forward wound up in Russia, where he continued his development at Spartak Moscow, finishing as the second top scorer in the league with 13 goals and earning his first international call-up.

His second year in the Russian capital proved equally fruitful. Though injuries limited his appearances, he nevertheless hit the target 12 times. One of these strikes earned him a place in the history books, as he notched the fastest goal in Russian Premier League history when he took just ten seconds to break the deadlock in a 2-1 victory over Alania Vladikavkaz.

"I wasn't unhappy in Russia. We had a good team and the people were kind. I have nothing but fond memories of my two years there. But honestly I always felt that I would go back to Fenerbahce one day. We had unfinished business," he revealed. "It's a club that makes a mark on you emotionally. I fell head over heels in love with Fenerbahce in 2011. It was a huge wrench to leave them and I'm thrilled to be there now."  

It is easy to grasp why Emenike is so happy. He is a key member of Ersun Yanal's table-topping side, having helped the Yellow Canaries fly into a five-point lead over Besiktas. When able to steer clear of injuries, the Nigerian is racking up the goals and assists for fun. When sidelined, however, his side stumbles. Fener's two back-to-back defeats at the beginning of February coincided with the striker's absence with a thigh problem.

Emulating Amunike in more ways than one
The talk of injuries is just about the only thing that can wipe the smile off Emenike's face. The marksman's fitness struggles have affected not just his club, but his country too.

The top scorer at the most recent CAF Africa Cup of Nations, netting four times as Nigeria lifted the trophy, Emenike had his heart set on flying the flag for Africa at last year's FIFA Confederations Cup. "I injured my knee a few weeks before the tournament and unfortunately had to pull out," he explained.

"Here's hoping I can make up for it at the World Cup. It's an occasion that obviously means a great deal to me. Events don't come any bigger. It's going to be amazing. Touch wood I won't get injured this time!"

Interestingly, Emenike's talents and fitness woes bring to mind the Fenerbahce forward's fellow countryman and near namesake, Emmanuel Amunike. Named African Player of the Year in 1994 on the back of a sensational Cup of Nations, the midfielder's career was subsequently blighted by injuries.

"The most difficult part of being a footballer is when you can't fight back," the former Zamalek, Sporting Lisbon, Barcelona and Albacete man admitted to FIFA.com a few months ago. "Not being able to play because your body won't respond to what you're telling it is the worst thing.

"[But] Making people happy, making them smile - it doesn't get any better than that for a footballer," he quickly added. This is a message Emenike would surely echo.