The unexpected retirement of Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo immediately after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations ended the story of another Number 9 who failed to reach the high standards set by the late legendary goal getter Rashidi Yekini. But can the new kid on the block Victor Osimhen get as far as Yekini and possibly surpass him?
In truth, Rashidi Yekini has not been an easy act to follow. It took the former Vitoria Setubal striker only 11 years to smash the record of 22 goals set by Segun ‘the Mathematical’ Odegbami in just 47 matches. Yet 21 years after Yekini exited the national scene, no other striker has come close to being as prolific for the Super Eagles as the Kaduna-born goal machine who blasted in 37 goals in only 58 games.
Mind you, during that intervening period Nigera has not been in short supply of fine, quality finishers. Nwankwo Kanu and Victor Ikpeba, both Africa Player of the Year awardees, could not topple Rashidi Yekini’s goal record for the Super Eagles. Neither could even lead the country to continental triumph, like Yekini did in Tunisia 1994 when he was the tournament highest goalscorer as Nigeria lifted the Africa Cup of Nations for only the second time in history.
Obafemi Martins, Victor Agali, Julius Aghahowa, Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Emmanuel Emenike were at different times part of the national team setup. All took turns to step into the huge shoes left behind by the striker who scored Nigeria’s first ever goal at a FIFA World Cup. All found the shoes too big to fit. Only Emmanuel Emenike managed to lift the AFCON trophy while picking up the top scorer prize. But he didn’t have the staying power needed to challenge the national goal record.
But in Victor Osimhen, Nigeria may just have found the guy who can succeed where others have failed: be greater than Super Eagles greatest – Rashidi Yekini.
Osimhen at just 20 has shown a far more advanced mastery of his scoring art than Yekini did at a similar stage in his career.
The Lille forward was already a World champion at the age of 17 while also picking up the Golden Boot. His performances that year 2015 also earned him the CAF Youth Player of the Year award.
The youngster’s early European sojourn with Wolfsburg may not have gone as planned but his subsequent spell at Belgian club Sporting Charleroi and his first few days at new side Lille has confirmed his reputation as a prolific goalscorer.
It is only a matter of time before he opens his goal scoring account for the national football team and one senses that should that floodgate be opened, it might not stop raining goals until the Yekini goal record is drowned.
With more than ten years still ahead of the Lagos born striker, bar injuries, there are about 5 AFCON tournaments, 3 World Cups, and 3 Confederations Cup likely to be played in the colours of the green and white. Enough years to shade 30-odd goals.
In a fortnight, the UEFA Champions League will begin and Europe’s premier club competition will be introduced to the hottest Nigeria striker in the world at the moment and the likes of Chelsea, Ajax and Valencia will face the scoring fury of Victor Osimhen.
If Osimhen can shine in the Champions League – a competition Yekini never participated in – lift the AFCON trophy, score at the World Cup, along with his already-won prizes at the age-group competitions, the young lad would rightly earn the tag as the greatest Super Eagles striker ever.