Odion Ighalo has hailed the talent of countryman Victor Osimhen amid rumours the Lille attacker could be the next Nigerian forward targeted for a transfer to Old Trafford.
Lille signed the forward from Belgian outfit Charleroi last summer for what now looks like a bargain fee of €14 million, with Osimhen now said to be worth almost 10 times that figure.
Ighalo—who joined United on loan from Shanghai Shenhua in January—told Elegbete TV he talks regularly with his compatriot, whom he considers “the future of Nigerian football”:
"I talk to Osimhen, he’s a very nice boy, young, he’s a good guy. We talk, not almost every day, but almost every time I advise him.
"He’s the future of Nigerian football. He’s the future, he’s going to do so well in football. I always advise him to keep calm, keep working hard and the guy is going to be a celebrity, you know.”
Mark Jones of the Mirror wrote United have been linked with Osimhen’s signature after less than a season in Ligue 1, having previously failed to score in 14 appearances for Wolfsburg.
Osimhen—who turned 21 in December—travelled to watch the Red Devils draw 1-1 away to Club Brugge in the UEFA Europa League in February. He swapped jerseys with Ighalo in a show of support for the first Nigerian to represent United, per BBC Sport’s Oluwashina Okeleji:
Osimhen had scored 18 goals in 38 total appearances for Lille before football was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, en route to beating the career-high 20 he scored for Charleroi last season.
Lee Wilmot of Football.London cited a report from Le 10 Sport, which said Lille value their man at $110 million (€100 million), which may be fair enough considering his contract won’t expire until 2024.
Ighalo, 30, has been a hit in Manchester and netted four times in eight outings for his loan club. The player arrived as temporary cover for the injured Marcus Rashford, but there could be a chance the player will move to Old Trafford on permanent terms this summer. Ighalo continued:
“He [Osimhen] came to watch our game against Club Brugge in Belgium because it’s closer to where he lives, he messaged me he was going to come so I gave him my jersey, and in fact he brought his own jersey for me, too.
"Osimhen is a nice boy, we’re from the same place. I love him, he’s down to earth, he’s hard working, he has a future and he has the mentality of a winner, that’s what I love about him. He has that lion’s heart.
"I love him, I just want him to keep working hard the way he’s doing, he’s going to break so many records in Europe and Nigeria."
Lille shared a snapshot of his most recent scoring contributions prior to the break, showcasing an impressive turn of pace for an attacker who stands rather tall at 6’1”:
Much was expected of the player after he was a leading part in the Nigeria team that won the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2015, having also clinched the Golden Boot at that tournament.
Ighalo is fighting to carve out his own long-term future at the club he supported since he was a boy, though there’s another Nigerian on the radar who could soon be seen as competition.