After weeks of suspense-filled drama packed with Prison Break-like twists and turns, one of this summer’s most captivating transfer saga has come to a pleasing end: Victor Osimhen is officially a Napolitano.
The Premier League is the youngster’s dream. Barcelona is the club he supports. Real Madrid and Manchester United were reportedly interested in the Nigerian. Liverpool, Tottenham, and Chelsea were at different times favourites for his signature. Inter Milan cast a momentary glance. AC Milan made a half-hearted enquiry.
But it is Napoli who have shown more commitment, beaten off the competition, and coughed out the millions to secure the services of Africa’s rising star.
Barely 12 months after Alex Iwobi surpassed Odion Ighalo as Nigeria’s most expensive player of all time, and Arsenal splashed the cash to make Nicolas Pepe Africa’s most costly star, Osimhen has overtaken them both on those exclusive charts.
That’s an incredible feat for a 21-year-old who has had just two full seasons in Europe as a club’s undisputed number nine.
The young forward deserves a lot of credit for coming this far.
Starting in the slums of Lagos to becoming the newest Prince of Naples is no mean feat. Making the Golden Eaglets squad to Chile 2015 was the first hurdle. Claiming the tournament’s Golden Boot and Silver Ball awards as Nigeria lifted the FIFA U-17 World Cup trophy could have been his greatest achievements.
Refusing to fall by the wayside like Peter Anosike, Victor Brown, and Macaulay Crisantus before him was impressive.
Grabbing his second chance at Charleroi after a temporary lull at Wolfsburg is commendable. And setting Lille on fire with goals has been remarkable.
But more than just for the goals and assists, Napoli are paying tens of millions of euros for the untameable passion that has fueled Osimhen’s rise from humble beginnings, energized his survival after his mother’s death, and fired his self-belief when others have doubted him.
The passion that kept him focused on football and nothing else.
“I can still remember vividly when he was asked to go write his JAMB (university qualification exams), he lied to us that he wrote the exam,” Blessing Osimhen, his elder sister, recalled in a documentary put together by Naija Footballers.
“Okay, go and check your result. He refused.
“So, since then, my dad knew he wasn’t ready for anything (but football), and he just left him to face his career.”
Behind Osimhen’s calm mien, humble disposition, and charming smile is a Mount Kilimanjaro-sized confidence in his ability to overcome any challenge in his path to his dream.
He has faced many hurdles. None has kept him back from forging ahead.
Nurudeen Sanni, the youngster’s childhood mentor, said, “the day I was told he was in the under-17 camp, I didn’t believe Nigeria could pick someone like him because he was tiny.
“He just called me that he was in Abuja. I said, don’t bother yourself, just come back home.
“He said, ‘don’t worry. I will try and make it’.” And he made it big.
Napoli have just added a born winner to their playing personnel. I hope Naples is ready for the beast that Gennaro Gattuso is about to unleash on the rest of the Serie A.
“He hates losing,” Chukwuemeka Nonso, Osimhen’s childhood friend, said. “He always puts more than 100% in everything he’s doing.
“He doesn’t give up on anything. He’s always determined.”
Napoli, welcome to Osimhen.