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Victor Osimhen: Super Eagles most complete striker since Yekini?

Napoli man touted for great things in Nigerian jersey

Super Eagles star Victor Osimhen has kicked off his season for his Italian club side Napoli as he opened the scoring in their 4-0 defeat of Udinese to take his tally for the season to three goals.

The 22-year-old has seen his season transformed since he scored the opening goal for the Nigerian senior team, the Super Eagles, in their 2-1 win over Cape Verde in during the international break. He has since scored three goals in three subsequent appearances for his club, including a wonderful brace in the Europa League against Leicester City.

The striker broke through at the 2015 U17 World Cup, where he set the record for most goals scored in the history of the competition, with his 10 goals for the Golden Eaglets leading them to glory in the tournament. The then-teenager followed in the footsteps of compatriot Kelechi Iheanacho, who had also earned a huge transfer after helping Nigeria win the tournament two years earlier.

Osimhen completed a transfer to German side Wolfsburg, where he struggled with a series of injuries, scoring no goals in 16 appearances for the club. Osimhen’s career looked to have stalled as he struggled to find clubs despite being one of the deadliest finishers of his age grade. Eventually, he moved on loan to Charleroi, a move that changed the trajectory of his career.

Osimhen ended up scoring 20 goals in 36 matches for Charleroi, forcing the club to pay a fee of €3.50 million to Wolfsburg to make his transfer permanent in July 2019. Only one month later, French side Lille paid €22.40 million to Charleroi to sign the youngster on a permanent deal.

Osimhen scored 18 goals and created six more in 38 appearances for Lille in his only season with the club, earning him an African record transfer to Italian giants Napoli for €70 million.

The striker struggled with injury and COVID-19 illness in his first season at the club and only really came to life in the latter stages of the season. He ended the season with 10 goals in 1573 minutes for the club in the Italian Serie A, and has added another one this season already.

For the Super Eagles, however, Osimhen is a different beast altogether. The striker made his debut in a 2017 friendly win against Togo, before appearing a second time nine months later in a defeat to South Africa. Osimhen was part of the Super Eagles squad that picked up bronze at the 2019 African Cup of Nations, making his sole appearance as a substitute in the third-place match.

Osimhen was made to wait until October 2019, two years and nine months after his debut, for his first goal for the Super Eagles on what was his fifth appearance. Since then, the goals have been pouring in. Osimhen has scored 7 goals and contributed six assists in only 13 appearances for the Super Eagles, 10 of which have been starts.

His performances for Napoli have shown different sides to his game, and this has made him a darling in the Italian city of Naples and an undisputed starter under new manager Luciano Spalletti. His first goal against Leicester City was testament to his football background on the streets of Lagos as he expertly flicked the ball over a defender before dinking the ball over the goalkeeper. His second was a more refined aspect of his game showing as he jumped in a Ronaldo-esque manner to powerfully head home a cross. His third goal of the season against Udinese was another different type that showed his poacher ability as he reacted quickly to prod home a goal-bound shot from Lorenzo Insigne.

Napoli manager Spalletti spoke like a proud father when he said that Osimhen could not be caught in open space due to his strength and explosive pace, and the striker showed why as he left both of Leicester City’s central defenders for dead several times in their match. He also held up play reasonably well and created a good chance in the first half for Polish midfielder Piotr Zielinski.

Osimhen’s all-round ability has drawn praise from many quarters of Nigerian football and has seen him likened to the Super Eagles all-time top scorer and greatest striker Rashidi Yekini. He has been hailed as the heir to Yekini’s throne. Yekini scored 37 goals in 57 appearances for Nigeria, a feat that has not been matched since his retirement.

Osimhen needs to score 30 more goals for the Super Eagles to equal Yekini’s record, and with his tender age and the amount of talent and hardwork he exudes, it would be unwise to bet against him matching the legendary Yekini’s tally before the end of his career.

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