FORGET MILAN, WEDNESDAY IS MY ROAD TO BRAZIL
Onyewu pins World Cup hopes on Owls
SHUT out at AC Milan, let go by Sporting Lisbon and stuck on the bench at QPR – Oguchi Onyewu has not enjoyed much luck over the last five years.
Now settling in at Sheffield Wednesday after joining from Rangers until the end of the season, the American defender admits it has been one mishap after another since his dream move to the San Siro in 2009.
A knee injury wrecked Onyewu’s debut season but he did not play a single minute in Serie A in his two-year stay, despite signing a one-year contract extension for free in gratitude for his rehabilitation.
But the path into the first-team remained barred by manager Massimiliano Allegri – who Onyewu claims told him there was no way back however much he impressed in practice.
“The move to AC Milan was great at the time. I’d won two league titles with Standard Liège and had reached the Confederations Cup final as well,” he said.
“Everything was going well but then you are hit with a dramatic knee injury so you’re left thinking: ‘What are you supposed to do with that?’
“I wanted to repay Milan in terms of their care for me by playing without a salary for a year and they were great, but from the management side of things it was hard.
“Regardless of what I did in training, Allegri said it was irrelevant because you are not going into the team and you have to accept it. I think he came out and said it to the media too.”
There were even reports of a training ground bust-up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic to further sour his time in Italy but then Sporting Lisbon offered him a move and a way out – until misfortune struck again.
He was a first-choice pick in Portugal but the club’s financial problems forced their hand and, as a free agent last summer, QPR was the next team for him to try his luck at. Another club, another problem – Clint Hill and Richard Dunne’s stingy partnership at Loftus Road.
One more chance to put it all behind him came from Stuart Gray at Sheffield Wednesday at the turn of the year but, with a World Cup looming, Onyewu was cautious about taking it.
He first consulted compatriot Stuart Holden – who had a brief stint on loan with the Owls last season – and QPR boss Harry Redknapp before making his mind up. But he says life at Hillsborough has been good so far. “When I first signed for QPR they understood my ambitions of reaching the World Cup this summer. Harry was aware of that and I expected to get that opportunity to play. Unfortunately that didn’t happen,” added the 31-year-old. “He didn’t want to mess with the
chemistry of a settled team. Everyone’s ambition is to play at the highest level and I have to wait and see what the future holds.
“If that’s at Wednesday, I’ll have no problem – it all depends on the situation.
“It would be my second World Cup if I go and I know what I need to do – perform – and that’s all I can take care of.
“I captained the team in my last cap and it’s up to me prove a point, that I have a lot to offer.
“Sheffield Wednesday’s offer was presented to me by Stuart Gray, who wanted me to finish the whole deal fairly quickly but I’m somebody who doesn’t do things on the spur of the moment. I do my due diligence.
“So I spoke to Harry and QPR assistant manager Kevin Bond about the move, and I also had a conversation with Stuart Holden, who told me what to expect from the fans and the coaches.
“It’s definitely good to have Stuart (Gray) here on a permanent basis, especially when he worked so hard to bring me in.
“He has done everything in his power for the club so I’m pleased with him and pleased with the team.
“We’re in a great run of games and I’ve got a goal as well. I just want to help the team climb up the ladder.”
NATIONAL PRIDE: Onyewu playing for the United States, and, inset, in his time at Milan
OUT AND IN: Allegri and Redknappp did not play Onyewu, but Gray gave him a new chance