Former Portsmouth striker Kanu: Doctors told me I would have to stop playing when I was 20

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He was a hero to football fans all across the world, playing for some of Europe’s biggest clubs. 

But former Pompey striker Nwankwo Kanu has spoken about the day he thought he might have to quit playing after doctors discovered an issue with his heart.

Portsmouth's Nwankwo Kanu scores his sides first goal of the game against Cardiff City in the 2008 FA Cup final

Portsmouth's Nwankwo Kanu scores his sides first goal of the game against Cardiff City in the 2008 FA Cup final

In an interview with the Guardian, the ex-striker said that ‘everything was upside down’ when he was told by Inter Milan in 1996 that there was a problem with the aortic valve.

The issue was diagnosed after playing in two pre-season friendlies, shortly after joining the Italian club.

Kanu, now 42, said he was stood down from the next match after taking his medical, and only discovered what had happened when he saw the news on TV.

He told the newspaper: ‘What they reported was that I had an issue with my heart and couldn’t play football any more.

‘Later on, Inter came to tell me that, yeah, this was the situation. I said “I have already heard about it.”

‘It was a big one – and for it to be revealed in such a manner. It should not have been like that.

‘At that moment, everything was upside down for me.’

Luckily, a specialist in Cleveland, Ohio, was able to perform an operation to fix the fault and Kanu resumed his career in Italy the next year.

He signed for Arsenal in 1999, scoring 37 goals in 119 appearances, and later signed for Pompey in 2006.

During his time at Fratton Park he scored 20 goals – including the winner in the 2008 FA Cup final against Cardiff City.