Profile: Finidi

The playful shadow

In the month of July of 1996, Real Betis announced one of the most spectacular signings of their history: the Nigerian Finidi George. No doubt that he was one of the best players who ever wore the Green and White shirt.

A powerful and fast right winger, brilliant on finishing, and with that gazelle run that the Béticos who enjoyed with him will never forget. A footballer that in 1995 had won the Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup with Ajax.

He was born in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt on the 15th of April of 1971. He began playing in his hometown team before signing for Calabar Rovers, team in the first division of Nigeria. It was then when he made his debut with the national team. In fact, during a tour with the Eagles in the Netherlands in the summer of 1993, Ajax scouts set their eyes on him and signed to fill a team managed by Louis van Gaal and with superstars such as Kluivert, the De Boer borthers, Davids, Litmanen and Overmars. During his spell in Amsterdam, Finidi won with the team three Dutch leagues, one Champions League and one Intercontinental Cup, with an average of 11 goals per season.

His signing was even more notorious because Real Madrid had made public that they wanted to sign the player and even sent some negotiators to Amsterdam to close the deal.

However, Real Betis president back then, Manuel Ruiz de Lopera, who made the deal in a high-end operation with a cost of 1,024 million pesetas (around 6 million Euros).

Finidi George, whose name means good future, was immortalised by the stadium speaker, Manolo Melado, as "The playful shadow". His debut with the Green and White shirt happened on the 1st of September of 1996 in a LaLiga match played at Benito Villamarín against Athletic Club. The final score was 3-0 and Finidi opened the score.
That season, managed by Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, Betis reached the Copa del Rey final, match in which score done of the Green and White goals, and finished the league in fourth position. A magnificent team with players such as a Alfonso, Jarni, Alexis, Roberto Ríos, Merino?

From the moment he arrived, Finidi George's performance rate was astonishing. A trend that kept up during his first three seasons and only had a small decrease in the 1999-2000 season, due to a bitter episode with the president of the Club.
So tense it was that the player departed in the summer of 2000 after the team's relegation. He then went to Real Mallorca, where he closed his career after two different spells with one year at Ipswich Town in between.

Lorenzo Serra Ferrer said about Finidi that he was capable of extraordinary things, "with such a great technique and all of it done at extraordinary pace." A football exuberance that created a fond memory in the Stadium every time the Nigerian scored a goal. In that moment, from the North Stand, a hat would fly and Finidi would pick it up and out it on while being hugged by his teammates.

In the four seasons Finidi wore the Green and White shirt, he played 152 official games (130 league; 11 Copa del Rey; 5 Cup Winners Cup; and 6 UEFA Cup) and scored 44 goals.

Finidi's magic will remain forever in the memories of the fans. He will never forget any of the four seasons this marvelous Nigerian player made all the Béticos happy with his talent, his goals and his personality. An icon of a beautiful time.