The Leicester City forward has been in devastating form for the English side in recent weeks, and he may have done enough to move ahead of the Napoli star on Nigeria’s striking list
Victor Osimhen is head coach Gernot Rohr’s favourite number striker for the Super Eagles, but former Nigerian international Garba Lawal expects Kelechi Iheanacho to be preferred ahead of the Napoli man during March’s Afcon qualifiers.
Iheanacho bagged his first-ever premier league hat-trick for Leicester City at the weekend in the 5-0 thrashing of Sheffield United to take his tally for this season to ten goals in all competitions.
The former Manchester City man ticks all the boxes for Gernot Rohr, who has always shown his bias for players who have the pedigree of starring at the club and international level.
Compatriot Osimhen has only managed three goals for Napoli this term after joining the Italian side in the summer from French club Lille in a multi-million euros deal.
But he has consistently delivered for the Super Eagles, scoring four goals in his last five matches for the three-time African champions.
Genk’s forward Paul Onuachu, despite his prolific spell in Belgium this season, was dropped from the national team because of his low-scoring returns for Nigeria.
But Iheanacho, who made his international debut two years before Osimhen in 2015, has found the back of the net nine times when putting on the green-and-white colours.
And with the 24-year-old star’s blistering form for Leicester City, he’s the only Nigerian forward at the moment who has proven his worth for club and country.
Lawal thus posits that Iheanacho should be leading the attack line when Nigeria trade tackles with the Benin Republic on March 27 in Porto Novo.
The 1996 Atlanta Olympics gold medalist admits Iheanacho could be lazy on the pitch. Still, his goalscoring abilities mean Rohr cannot afford to bench him for Osimhen or new invitee Umar Sadiq.
“Every manager wants to see his players playing week-in-week-out and most especially the strikers scoring goals,” Lawal told the Punch.
“Now, I believe it’s a headache for the coach to bench someone that is scoring week-in-week-out and put someone that’s off and on. That’s the reality; football is practical.
“I’ve always had confidence in him (Iheanacho) because I knew he is always clinical and scores a lot of goals. I always like him as a striker.
“Sometimes he is lazy in the game, but once he has that half chance, he converts it, and that’s all what you need as a striker.”
2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup winner Iheanacho scored four goals for Nigeria in 2016 against Mali, Luxembourg, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Another four goals followed in 2017, with Iheanacho netting against Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, and Argentina.
The Nigerian’s last goal for Nigeria arrived in October 2020 in the Super Eagles friendly 1-1 draw against Tunisia in Austria.