On Saturday, February 1st 2020, Twitter Nigeria was filled with excitement after it was announced that Odion Ighalo has sealed a deadline day move to Manchester United from Shanghai Shenhua.
The 30-year-old signed a deal that will keep him at Old Trafford till the end of the season, and that caught many by surprise.
Although this is not to say a Nigerian cannot play for United, many were just surprised it had to be someone who will be turning 31 soon and has been playing in the less fancied Chinese Super League for the last three years.
Ighalo may have Premier League experience after a productive spell with Watford, but he has not played in Europe for over three years.
The move divided United’s fan base with many saying the club could have gone for a better option. Former Crystal Palace manager, Neil Warnock said it’s an act of desperation from Manchester United.
However, Ighalo won’t care about the criticism because he’s fulfilling a childhood dream. Nigerians are also buzzing for a player who is now the first Nigerian to play for the Red Devils.
The former Super Eagles star started playing football from the slums of Ajegunle, and that took him to Norway, Italy, England and China. However, his move to Manchester United tops it all, and it shows dreams do come true even if the phrase sounds cliche.
But in all of the excitement and congratulatory messages, it’s the comment of Gernot Rohr that raised a robust debate.
The Super Eagles manager said he’ll try to convince Ighalo to make a comeback to the national team despite announcing his retirement from international football last year.
The former Watford man called time on his national team career after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations where Nigeria finished in the third position with Ighalo winning the golden boot.
However, following his move to United, Rohr revealed he wants him to make a return to the national team as a lot of young players can learn from him.
“We are very happy about the new team of Ighalo, Manchester United is a fantastic challenge for him, and I spoke already with him, and you know he is a very good player on and off the pitch, Rohr told AOIFootball
“If a player is playing in Manchester United each coach of national teams would like to have him. Our young players could learn a lot on the side of this great goal scorer,” Rohr concluded.
While Rohr may have a point, the decision could be counterproductive for the Super Eagles. Although Ighalo represented Nigeria well during his time with the Super Eagles, his return may affect the development of Victor Osimhen, the guy who filled his boots following his retirement.
If there were any doubts about where the goals will come from following Ighalo’s retirement, the Lille star has cleared them.
The former Royal Charleroi star has taken the No 9 role with full confidence, scoring four goals in the four games the Super Eagles have played since Ighalo retired.
Although both Osimhen and Ighalo have different abilities, there is still a lot of similarities in their games which means there’s no way Rohr can play both together upfront.
They are both traditional No 9s, which means one will have to play second fiddle to another. And judging from Rohr’s comments, Ighalo will be given the nod should he decide to go back on his retirement decision.
It’s unlikely for the former Granada man to make a return just to come and play a supporting role to Osimhen. His return could also cause disharmony in the Super Eagles squad even though there are no antecedents that show he’s that kind of player.
A lot has changed since the Super Eagles finished third at the Nations Cup with new faces coming into the squad. Old guards like Mikel have retired, while Ahmed Musa has been relegated to a bit-part player in the team.
Ighalo’s potential comeback may be an unwanted distraction for the perfect chemistry these new Super Eagles stars have built.
It’s also essential for Rohr to move on from the old guards, and start focusing on the future. While Ighalo’s move to United is a big thing for Nigeria, there is no need for him to go back on his retirement from international duty as it will be the best thing for both the Super Eagles and the former Watford man.