Jerry Mbakogu: From Italy to Croatia via Russia

Credit: Елена Рыбакова

You signed for Croatian team NK Osijek in 2019. How are you enjoying your time at the club so far and how would you describe a club such as NK Osijek?

Credit: IvanOS

I signed for NK Osijek almost on the transfer deadline of the summer transfer window. I am really enjoying my time here at the club. It has been amazing so far and I am having a good time in Croatia.

When I arrived at the club I was not in a great condition due to sustaining an injury the previous season so I had to work on that.Everyone here at NK Osijek are really nice from my teammates, the coach to the directors too. Osijek from a small but really nice city here in Croatia and the football here is Croatia is much more calmer compared to Italy for example where there is a lot of pressure and everybody expects you to win every game. I would say that the pressure is not as high here in Croatia so it is easier as a player to focus on football and still enjoy your private life off the pitch as well so everything is positive.

You came through the youth setup and debuted for Padova before returning to the club later in your career. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?

Credit: LigaDue

When it comes to football I grew up in Padova and I started playing for the club when I was 12 years old and I played in the youth setup and I made my debut for the first team when I was 16 in an away match against Crotone. I then left the club and after seven years I had the opportunity to return to the club and try to help the team avoid relegation and I wanted to return home because Padova is where all my friends and family are based.

I have very fond memories of my time at Padova and I am grateful for everything for the club has done for me. I remember my first match for the club like it was yesterday and I have very fond memories from my time at the club.

You played four seasons for Carpi and made many appearances for the club. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special memories or highlights?

Well I believe that my time at Carpi was definitely until now the best time in my career. We had some great seasons during my time at the club.I moved to Carpi when they first got promoted from Serie C to Serie B and in my first season we managed to avoid relegation and in my second second we got promoted to Serie A which was fantastic.

We knew that we were a good team but we never believed that we could win the league but all of a sudden you start winning three , four games in a row and then you start to see the true power of your teammates and the team and that makes you believe and that particular season was my best season so far in professional football. We played amazing and I became top scorer in Serie B. My time at Carpi was great we won a lot of games. After the relegation from Serie A we reached the playoff final where we lost to Benevento.I have great memories from my time at Carpi. I believe that we played some great football as a team and I also showed my qualities as a player.

You have accrued a lot of experience playing at different levels in Italy and also in Russia. Could you say who are among the best players that you have played alongside so far in your career?

Credit: Roberto Vicario

I would say that the best player I played alongside was Marco Borriello. He came to Carpi when we were in Serie A and he was a very experienced player who had played for among others AC Milan, Juventus and AS Roma and we had him in our team and it is nor everyday that such an experienced player comes to join your team.

I have been fortunate to play with many good players Roberto Inglese and Kevin Lasagna also at Carpi and both players are now playing in Serie A for Parma and Udinese respectively and they are both playing well and I believe that they will both continue to do well in their careers and go on to become top players in the future.

Credit: Muhammad Ashiq

I can imagine in your position as a striker that particularly in Serie A you came up against many good opponents. Are the opponents you have faced that stand out for you in terms of talent and ability?

Yes, When you play in Serie A particularly you come up against the best players. It was fantastic for us as young players at Carpi to experience Serie A and the player who really surprised me when I played against him was Paul Pogba of Juventus. He made everything look so easy and everything came natural to him. He was just fantastic who did amazing things and when I came up against him I could see with my own eyes how strong he is for example.

Also Gonzalo Higuaín was at Napoli at the time and he was scoring lots of goals. I am grateful to have played in one of the best leagues in the world

Credit: European Commission DG ECHO

Finally Jerry could you say who are the coaches and managers who have meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional footballer?

A manager that really stands out for me during my four seasons at Carpi was Fabrizio Castori and I played my best football under him and he was more than a manager for me. When somebody asks me about a manager he is the first manager that comes to mind. We had a great time together and he helped me improve as a player.You also learn something from every manager that you play under.The longer you spend under one coach the more you learn.

Fabrizio Castori is the manager who has taught me the most in my football career so far. We won Serie B and spent three years together.When it came to football Fabrizio Castori was very direct in terms of getting the ball and trying to score a goal as fast as possible and that made us hungry as players. He also trained us really hard and the players really worked hard for him. He was also a manager with a great heart who tried to bring out the best in his players.

I remember his team talks were inspirational and he was a very motivational manager who would bring out the best in his players and we would go out on the pitch highly charged wanting to win the game at all costs.You knew as a player what was expected of you and the season that we won Serie B we won it with two months to spare. I managed to achieve great things under him.

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