In 2007, towards the end of his first spell as Chelsea coach, and faced with an injury crisis to his first team, Jose Mourinho, aka the special one, made a famous analogy using eggs and omelette.
Mourinho, who had already won consecutive English premiership titles with Chelsea, including their first in 50 years, gave a telling response to an inquiry bothering on the lack of transfer funds available to him to buy quality players to improve his then Chelsea squad.
“It’s all about omelettes and eggs. No eggs, no omelette. And it depends on the quality of the eggs. In the supermarket, you have eggs class one, class two, class three. Some are more expensive than others and some give you better omelettes. So when the class one eggs are in Waitrose and you cannot go there, you have a problem.” Mourinho said, just a few months before he was sacked by the ruthless former Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich.
Mourinho pulls no punches. But after winning 26 major trophies in his coaching career, the former Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Tottenham and now Roma coach, knows a thing or two about quality eggs, delicious omelettes, and how to build great, title winning teams.
Simply put…good quality, good product. But get the combination right too.
Sixteen years later, another Portuguese head coach with same first name is faced with a coaching dilemma. This time, not in the English Premiership, but somewhere in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, host of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Super Eagles’s head coach, Jose Peseiro, is caught in the middle of eggs and omelettes. With a star-studded squad that includes current African Player of the Year, Victor Osimhen and players plying their trade in some of the top clubs in Europe, Peseiro does not lack quality in his team, neither does he need any transfer fund. He has also tackled the double injury crisis.
Scene One. The Portuguese coach was able to call on Nice striker Terem Moffi to replace Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface who was withdrawn from AFCON at the last minute due to an injury.
Similarly, Real Sociedad’s Sadiq Umar was replaced by Paul Onuachu on the team list following a suspected injury and three-week recovery period. Onuachu plays for Super Lig club Trabzonspor on loan from English Championship club Southampton.
Scene Two: On paper, the Super Eagles of Nigeria boast of a lethal attacking unit – Osimhen (Napoli SC, Italy); Ahmed Musa (Sivasspor K, Turkey); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Ademola Lookman (Atalanta FC, Italy); Samuel Chukwueze (AC Milan, Italy); Terem Moffi (Nice, France) and Onuachu.
The Eagles midfield may be average compared to previous sets, but it still has a formidable lineup that includes Fulham’s Alex Iwobi and Leicester City Wilfred Ndidi.
A reliable defence line includes William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo, Oluwasemilogo Ajayi, among others. On a good day, the goalkeeper can go to sleep with these guys at the back four.
But then, the Eagles’ goalkeeping department still poses concern for many Super Eagles fans. There are literally no first among equals in a unit comprising Stanley Nwabali (Chippa United, South Africa); Francis Uzoho (Omonia FC, Cyprus); and Olorunleke Ojo (Enyimba FC).
Scene Three: In terms of squad depth and quality, this AFCON 2023 set might struggle to make the cut of the top five Super Eagles set, howver, they still possess some quality to scare opponents and go all the way to the AFCON final, and even win the whole thing.
But then, it’s all about quality of eggs to make a good omelette.
Double treble-winning Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola, is regarded as one of the best coaches of all time. Despite his rivals spending more money to buy expensive players and coming up short season after season, Guardiola scouts and buys only the right players that fits his team and playing style. Having the right mix for his squad’s shows in the cohesive quality of his team and the bulk in his trophy cabinet.
A coach once told me “The kind of players you have will make you a good coach. It’s easier to coach and play with great players that will then make your team better, rather than with ‘weak’ players.”
No doubt, Peseiro has quality to tinker with, with a fine blend of youth and experience in his team. The issue is if the coach knows how to mix the right quality (selection, formation, tactics, discipline etc) to make a good omelette of the Super Eagles team, one worthy enough to smell the final and maybe win the AFCON trophy in Cote d’Ivoire.
Despite creating a flurry of chances against football minnows Equatorial Guinea in their first match, the Eagles team failed to convert in the final third. It ended 1-1. A tinkering of coaching strategy would have noticed and plugged in that gap.
The litmus test for Peseiro’s Eagles is now against the host Cote d’Ivoire. With the right mix of quality, maybe this Super Eagles can be egg-cellent, after all.