The Manchester United forward shocked many by announcing his retirement from Super Eagles duty immediately after leading the team to a third-place finish at last year’s AFCON tournament
Odion Ighalo has eventually come clean on why he decided to draw the curtain on his international career at a time when he was seemingly at the peak of his powers.
Club commitments, long-distance journeys from Asia to Nigeria telling on his ageing legs, and the need to make room for the young talents coming through the team are the chief reasons why he said his goodbyes to the Gernot Rohr-led squad, Ighalo has confessed.
The former Watford man made his full debut for the Super Eagles in a friendly against Uganda in March 2015 and ended his national team career with a respectable 16 goals in 35 games.
A one-time Flying Eagles skipper, Ighalo was a much-maligned man after scoring just four goals in his first three years with the Super Eagles.
But the 30-year-old redeemed himself by finding the back of the net 12 times in his last two years, to help Nigeria qualify for the 2019 AFCON and top the goalscorer’s chart at the tournament proper.
It then came as a surprise he called it quits at a time many expected him to add to his legacy.
Ighalo, though, reckons he decided to leave at the right time.
“I got injured in the third-place game with Tunisia, in the first half I pulled my hamstring, I have been having problems on that hamstring even before the tournament,” Ighalo told Ghanaian journalist Nana Aba Anamoah via Instagram Live.
“I needed to stop because it is too long from China to Nigeria for national team duties, I am not getting young again, and we have lot of young, exciting players coming up, Victor Osimhen doing so well, Iwobi and Chukwueze are there.
“I thought about it, this is the right time for me to leave.”
Ighalo added: “It was a difficult decision because I love playing for my country, it’s a country that gave me everything I have today, so anytime I am being called upon to play for my country, it is a joy to play.
“That decision was difficult, but I have to do it for my health for me to play longer in my club career, then I have to stop travelling very far.”