When Nigeria striker Victor Obinna was signed by Cape Town City at the start of the season it was viewed as quite the coup for the South African Premier Soccer League club – and a chance to perhaps bring the player back into World Cup reckoning.
Six months on and the 30-year-old has departed with just a single goal scored in 14 appearances, and the former Inter Milan and West Ham star finds himself at a major crossroads in his career.
A number of reasons have been given for the exit, not least that he struggled without his European-based family, but the simple truth is that Obinna did not perform in the Mother City.
City coach Benni McCarthy, a former Hammers teammate and friend of the Nigerian, had brought him to the club and made it clear that it was the decision of owner John Comitis to release the player.
“Chairman John Comitis agreed with Victor from the beginning that we would do a review after six months and he didn’t feel that it was working for us‚” coach Benni McCarthy told TimesLIVE.
“There are no hard feelings between us. He understands. I felt he was getting fitter‚ better and stronger but I don’t think the chairman was convinced.”
It was, perhaps, always going to be a tough ask for Obinna, who had started just one game in the previous year before joining City. His lack of match fitness, coupled with the fast-paced nature of the PSL, meant that there was always going to be a lengthy adjustment period.
And he did look short of a gallop in matches. Always a willing runner, that sharpness was not there. He looked sluggish in the box at times and the clinical touch missing. For a player renowned for his pace, he could look lethargic.
Comitis himself says it was more to do with family issues than how things were going on the pitch, which somewhat contradicts his coach.
“Obinna had a six-month contract plus [an] option to continue and he couldn’t get his family here because of paperwork, and we decided that maybe it’s best to part ways,” Comitis told KICK OFF.
“We had a one season [contract] to it but it was to be reviewed after six months and he didn’t settle. His wife couldn’t get the visa to come here.”
Victor Obinna Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
The question is “what now?” for a player whose career has been on the skids for a few years, and who last played for the Super Eagles three years ago.
Before arriving at City he spent the 2016/17 season with SV Darmstadt 98 Germany, but just a single start and two substitute appearances all season suggested his standards had slipped.
In a career that includes 46 caps (and 12 goals) for Nigeria, it is a low moment and if he is to return to Europe he could have trouble persuading a club of stature that he is worth a punt.
On the up side, there is no doubting his quality and his football intelligence and, if he can get the physical side of the game right, provides intriguing potential for suitors.
If this is to be the end of his career, it would be a sad finish for a player who promised so much and who featured for clubs not just in Italy, England and Germany, but notably in Spain and Russia too.
When he was a star name that joined Inter Milan aged 21 after three excellent seasons at Chievo in Serie A, he would not have imagined that less than a decade later he would be released just six months into a contract at a club in South Africa.