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Is Victor Osimhen Nigeria’s greatest striker of the 21st century?

Napoli star turning heads all over Europe with his performances

After starring in the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup and breaking the goalscoring record, many expected Victor Osimhen to be an instant hit in global football. The lanky striker, however, saw his budding career hit a snag as he struggled to make an impact at his first club, VFL Wolfsburg. With his disappearance from the radar, it was thought that he had gone to Chrisantus Macauley way. The teenage star, however, took advantage of a loan move to Sporting Charleroi in Belgium to firmly remind the world of his talents.

Since joining Charleroi in 2018, Osimhen has not looked back once. The 24-year-old recently crossed the 100-goal mark in his career faster than Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In terms of numbers, Osimhen is up there with the best, but his qualities are what set him apart from the best Super Eagles strikers of the recent past.

Like Osimhen, Obafemi Martins made a name for himself in Italy. The diminutive striker moved like a bullet and packed a load of dynamite in his left foot, with which he unleashed fury on opposition goalkeepers. He scored 18 goals for Nigeria in 42 appearances, a tally Osimhen is close to matching. Martins had searing pace and was a constant threat on the break, as a result of his speed. However, the former Newcastle United man lacked the physical attributes of Osimhen, being almost seven inches shorter. In an intensely physical Italian league, that was his undoing at the time. He did not have the physique to lead the line for the Nerazzurri and so had to leave the club despite a respectable tally of 49 goals in 136 appearances.

Another striker who enjoyed great success at club and international level was Yakubu Aiyegbeni, a striker remembered for that moment in 2010 by many Nigerian fans. In his pomp, however, Yakubu was one of Africa’s best exports in the Premier League and Nigeria’s first-choice striker. He scored 96 goals in the league and was known for his impressive physical attributes and deadly finishing. Yakubu did not have the pace to stretch defences as Osimhen does, making him an entirely different type of player. Yakubu scored 21 times in 57 appearances for the Super Eagles and is the third-highest scorer in the nation’s history.

Both Martins and Yakubu may be regarded as the two most consistent Nigerian strikers since Rashidi Yekini, and Osimhen has arguably already surpassed both. The Napoli man is averaging 0.68 goals per game for the Super Eagles, compared with 0.43 for Martins and 0.36 for Yakubu. It seems to be only a matter of time before Osimhen outscores even the great Yekini in the green and white of the Super Eagles. Many who watched both Yekini and Osimhen are of the opinion that the Napoli man is the only Super Eagles player who can measure up to his legendary status. 

With his name being sung all over Naples and indeed Italy, the sky is the limit for Ijaya Olusosun, the boy who sold water in Lagos traffic. Who knows, he may end up being Nigeria’s biggest export ever.


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