Odion Ighalo, a former striker for Manchester United, has been in the headlines recently as preparations are being made for Nigeria’s Super Eagles to compete in the AFCON in Ivory Coast in 2023.
The Super Eagles are blessed with several talented players in all departments, including the attacking line.
Attackers matter in football to get the goals for the team, and the current Super Eagles squad boasts of the likes of Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, Moses Simon, Ademola Lookman, Ahmed Musa, Taiwo Awoniyi and Kelechi Iheanacho, leading the attacking line for the team.
The aforementioned attackers were all invited by Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro for their last 2023 AFCON qualifier against Sierra Leone, in which Nigeria won 3-2 at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium in Monrovia, Liberia, to book their place in Ivory Coast 2023 with a game in hand.
With less than seven months for the 2023 AFCON to kick off in Ivory Coast, Webteam@ipledge2nigeria takes a look at the chances of Peseiro bringing back Ighalo to the Super Eagles team.
Ighalo recently insisted that he is still available to play for the Super Eagles.
“I do not think about the national team conversations for now. You never can say ‘never’ because the last time I announced my retirement, it felt too soon. But now, I don’t have a lot to say other than continue my club football and see how life goes,” Ighalo said.
The 34-year-old quit international football in July 2019 after the 2019 AFCON in Egypt.
“ Ighalo was the top scorer at the 2019 AFCON edition, winning the Golden Boot for the tournament”
The former Watford star also helped the Super Eagles claim third position after scoring the only goal as Nigeria defeated Tunisia 1-0 in the third-place final.
The former Al-Hilal forward later rescinded his decision to retire from international football and was called to the Super Eagles for the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, but his then-Saudi Arabia club, Al Shabab, blocked him from taking part in the competition.
Before he rescinded his retirement, Ighalo had initially threatened to retire after Nigerians blamed him for the Super Eagles exit from the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Ighalo missed some chances in the final group match against Argentina, which later cost the team as they lost 2-1.
Following the game, the former Granada star received threats and insults on his Instagram page, which forced him to lock his comments section.
However, Ighalo was talked out of quitting by former Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr and former President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick.
Ighalo is currently a free agent after leaving Saudi Arabia Professional League club, Al Hilal, last month following the expiration of his contract.
He won the top scorer award in the Saudi Arabia Pro League with 19 goals ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr teammate, Anderson Talisca, who netted 18 goals.
Ighalo is now available in the transfer market this summer as a free agent.
The former Shanghai Shenhua attacker has 16 international goals in 37 appearances for Nigeria, and he is only behind the likes of Rashidi Yekini, Segun Odegbami, Yakubu Ayegeni, Ikechukwu Uche, Obafemi Martins, Sunday Oyarekhua and Osimhen on the Super Eagles’ all-time top scorer’s goal chart.
His first stint for the Super Eagles was good, while the reverse was the case for his second stint.
Asked if Peseiro should bring Ighalo back to the Super Eagles ahead of the 2023 AFCON, Abubakar Ibrahim, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) FC head coach, said that it would not be a bad idea as the former Manchester United striker can offer his experience to the younger players like Osimhen.
According to Ibrahim, Ighalo still has a lot to offer the national team because he knows how to score goals, adding that it is good for a team to comprise young and old senior players.
“Ighalo is a goal poacher, and I believe at his age, he still has a lot to offer to the national team,” Ibrahim said.
“He is a very humble guy who, during his time at Manchester United and Watford, did very well.
“He knows how to score goals, I think he won the top scorer award in the Saudi league last season ahead of Ronaldo.
“So, It would not be a bad idea should the Super Eagles manager invite him for Nigeria’s last 2023 AFCON qualifier against Sao Tome and Principe in September since they have already qualified for Ivory Coast 2023 in order to see his performance ahead of the tournament proper.
“His presence alone in the Super Eagles squad is a huge motivation for the younger players – Osimhen, Awoniyi and Chukwueze,” he added.