An adolescent with the strength of a bull and the enthusiasm of a child when he scored. That was how Obafemi Martins presented himself while taking his first steps in elite football. His debut came against Parma when absences in attack convinced Hector Cuper to take a chance on the striker from the Primavera side. In theory, he was at the bottom of the pecking order behind big names such as Vieri, Crespo, Recoba and Kallon. His first goal was scored in Leverkusen in a match that was vital in deciding who went to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Not bad for young Nigerian lad who’d picked up the game playing barefoot in Lagos. Crespo was injured, Batistuta couldn’t play in the Champions League, Vieri wasn’t at his best so Cuper counted on the youngster and he was right to do so. Martins was called upon to put an extremely important match back on track. It was the European derby with Milan of 2003 but he wasn’t quite able to do it. Five minutes from the end, he beat Maldini for pace and put the ball beyond Abbiati. It was a good but ultimately futile goal as the away goals rule saw Milan make the final. That was just the start. Oba Oba’s speed had defences across Europe quaking in their boots and Oba had the habit of scoring important goals, especially against Milan and Juventus who were two of his favourite sides to play against.
Someone measured his pace over 100 metres and he could do it under 11 seconds, a time worthy of the Olympics. The Nerazzurri fans remember his other athletic feats. After every goal, he’d celebrate with four or five somersaults which became his trademark. At the end of his Inter career, he’d scored 49 goals. In 2006 he moved to Newcastle United just before Inter started to conquer Italy and Europe. He retains a place in the heart of Inter fans for his pleasant nature, speed with the ball at his feet and important goals, including his final one which rounded off a Coppa Italia win.