Emmanuel Okocha is delighted with the career progress of his nephew and Everton winger Alex Iwobi, crediting it to his humility and hard work.
The 24-year-old forward started his career with Arsenal, joining the Gunners while in primary school and went on to break into the first team.
He made his senior appearance under former manager Arsene Wenger in a League Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday in October 2015.
The utility player made 149 appearances before leaving to join the Goodison Park outfit last summer for a fee of around £34 million, and has established himself as one of the key members of Carlo Ancelotti’s team.
Okocha, who had 11 caps for the Super Eagles, reveals the forward’s success was not by accident, recalling how he rose through the ranks at the Emirates Stadium.
“Alex getting to this point is not a surprise and I know he’ll do better. He broke into that level where people started asking questions, comparing him to Jay-Jay [Okocha] because of the relationship,” Okocha told the Super Eagles media team in an Instagram chat.
“But they forget that he’s just another Nigerian like every other guy, playing for Nigeria, playing for Arsenal.
“Playing for Arsenal built him up, people still appreciate that. They were about 24 when they were picked up at seven or eight.
“He played for England youth, captained Arsenal’s U19s and U23s. A lot of people went through that and couldn’t play for the first team.
“He broke into the first team, stayed for a while, and had this big transfer, a massive transfer for me because the move to Everton made him more responsible for himself.
“He moved away from the family to another city so that’s a bigger challenge and he’s taking it well.”
Iwobi’s impressive performances for both country and club have seen him compared with former Super Eagles and Bolton Wanderers captain Jay-Jay, but the elder Okocha brother has dismissed such comparison, saying the mercurial midfielder can only be compared with the likes of Ronaldinho and Ronaldo.
“Compare Jay-Jay with the likes of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Messi [not Iwobi],” he continued.
“In this era don’t compare anybody with Messi, that would be unfair. That would put the young man under unnecessary pressure.”
Iwobi has made 22 appearances across all competitions for Everton this campaign before the outbreak of the coronavirus, which is still wreaking havoc around the world.
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The winger, who has 40 caps for the Super Eagles, played a key role as Gernot Rohr’s men qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.