Super Eagles boss Finidi reveals his biggest regret

Super Eagles head coach Finidi George has revealed that he came very close to joining Real Madrid during his time at Ajax Amsterdam. George may have ventured into management in recent years, but he was a fine footballer during his playing days.

While he started his career at Calabar Rovers, his rise was meteoric as he secured a move to Ajax in the early 1990s. Having achieved tremendous success in the Netherlands, he also lined up for Real Betis, Real Mallorca and Ipswich Town before hanging up his boots. 

Finidi was on the books of Ajax from 1993 to 1996 and was part of the club’s most successful era in Europe. Despite joining the Dutch giants with no prior experience playing in Europe, he settled in seamlessly and became an important member of the squad.

Super Eagles boss Finidi speaks on failed Real Madrid move
Photo by Icon Sport

The 53-year-old won three Eredivisie titles with Ajax as well as two Dutch Super Cups. He also played an integral role as Louis van Gaal’s side reached the final of the UEFA Champions League in back-to-back seasons, winning the prized competition in 1995. George’s trophy-laden spell in the Netherlands saw his stock rise and he wasn’t short of suitors.

Finidi George reveals how Real Madrid move fell through 

According to the Nigeria head coach, he was very close to joining Real Madrid from Ajax. He explained that he had already agreed personal terms with the Spanish giants, and the only thing that was left was an agreement between the two teams.

George said Real Madrid were, however, not as financially stable 25 years ago as they currently are, adding that the La Liga outfit was broke at the time, and therefore, couldn’t agree on a transfer fee with Ajax. 

Super Eagles boss Finidi speaks on failed Real Madrid move
Photo by Icon Sport

The Super Eagles boss noted that his failed move to Real Madrid is the only regret he has from his professional career that spanned two decades and a half, insisting then-Blancos manager Fabio Capello had okayed the move before it collapsed.

“My only regret is not signing for Real Madrid. The Real Madrid you know now is different from 25 years ago,” Finidi said in an interview with Brila FM, as quoted by Soccernet.ng.

“They were struggling with money and couldn’t reach an agreement with Ajax. I had already agreed on personal terms with Madrid and spoken with Coach Capello. I had a pre-contract, but Real Madrid and Ajax couldn’t agree on the transfer fee.”

Finidi George’s philosophy is to win 

Meanwhile, Finidi has also simplified his philosophy for the Super Eagles after being appointed as the substantive head coach of the national team. While many have tipped the former Enyimba coach to play an expansive brand of football, he insists his only goal is to win games.

The 53-year-old stated that he doesn’t dwell too much on formations and that his philosophy is to beat his opponents. Finidi further explained that the quality of the players at his disposal is more important to executing his game plan than any particular formation.

“My philosophy is to win. For me, formation is not that important, because if players interpret when to attack and when to defend and do it well, there won’t be problems,” Finidi said.

“You can play 3-5-2 or 4-4-2, but if the players know they have to attack or defend, the team won’t have problems. That is what Manchester City, Arsenal, and every other team do, but the difference is when players recognise this moment.”

George was in charge of the Super Eagles when they faced Ghana and Mali in their international friendlies in March, but his first major test will come in next month’s 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Nigeria are currently winless in two qualifying matches, and will therefore be chasing their first victory to get their qualification hopes back on track when they face South Africa and Benin in a few week's time. George’s side will host Bafana Bafana in Uyo on 7 June before taking on Benin on the road three days later. 

Super Eagles boss Finidi reveals his biggest regret
Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an Asante Kotoko fan and a passionate sports journalist with a little over five years of experience writing about African football.

His articles and features have been published in renowned news media like The Guardian, DW, Al Jazeera and Sportskeeda. His bylines can also be found in the UK journals World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.