Last chance saloon for Martins

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport, Lagos
Obafemi Martins
Obafemi Martins

A highly promising career which began at Italian side Inter Milan in 2003 is in danger of fizzling out.

But Nigeria striker Obafemi Martins is desperate to salvage what is left of his career at Spanish club Levante.

The nomadic forward joined the La Liga outfit last week after a disappointing stint at Russia's Rubin Kazan.

After scoring 46 goals in 125 matches for Inter, Martins joined the African exodus to the English Premier League and signed for Newcastle in 2006.

Despite scoring 35 goals in three seasons, the Nigerian's time on Tynside was not a roaring success and he switched to German outfit VFL Wolfsburg in July 2009.

If the plan was to win over legions of doubting Thomases, via the Bundesliga, it clearly did not work.

After struggling to settle down in the German top flight, he quit after just one season and headed to Russia in a deal worth US$11million.

But his time at Rubin Kazan was blighted by injuries and loss of form, forcing the team to banish him to the reserves.

He then suffered the humiliation of being left out of the Russian club's Europa League squad.

So what has caused a once promising career to get stuck in reverse gear?

A source at Rubin Kazan told BBC Sport that Levante "have inherited a broken Ferrari", no doubt a dig at the striker's penchant for fast cars.

"We gave him everything here but this boy was just restless and always on the move," the source said.

Former Nigeria coach Christian Chukwu, who gave Martins his international début in 2004, has been baffled by the striker's decline.

Chukwu said: "When he came to the Super Eagles, he was full of energy, unstoppable and unplayable.

"He had great striking qualities but something has gone wrong."

Set to turn 28 next month, Martins is aware that his reputation needs repairing. Fast.

He has taken a massive pay cut to seal a move to Spain and get regular football.

"Things didn't work out for me there [Rubin Kazan] but that's a closed chapter," said Martins.

"I want to capitalise on this new opportunity and prove that I still have a lot to offer."

With 17 international goals in 32 appearances, Super Eagles manager Stephen Keshi has left the door open but insists the unsettled striker must earn a recall.

"I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago and told him what to do, so he knows," said Keshi.

"Martins is one of the best strikers to have played for the Super Eagles but I'm more interested in what he can do now.

"I already have strikers who are scoring for their clubs so he must attain a certain level to be recalled."