The Napoli striker is Nigeria’s number nine, but he could have had the number taken away from him during this month’s international break
Super Eagles and Al-Shabab Striker Odion Ighalo has revealed that he was offered Victor Osimhen’s number nine jersey by top NFF officials prior to his return to international duty for Nigeria.
The 32-year-old forward decided to call time on his international career in July 2019, but an impressive goal-scoring spree at his Saudi Arabian side revived interests from the NFF and Super Eagles gaffer Gernot Rohr.
Despite the availability of attacking talents of Nigerian origin scattered across Europe, the former Manchester United striker was still invited to the Super Eagles camp for the world cup qualifiers against Liberia and Cape Verde to the detriment of Union Berlin star Taiwo Awoniyi.
Before his initial retirement, Ighalo don the number nine jersey, which is now worn by Osimhen. However, on his return to the team, he was offered his former number, which he duly rejected.
“A top NFF official told me I could have the number nine jersey back, and I told him no,” Ighalo told ESPN.
“I had left it. Osimhen is using it now and coming back, I’m going to play with any jersey number.”
“I told them to give me any jersey available. I can play with my bare skin for Nigeria, I’m a patriotic Nigerian. If it means me playing without a shirt in this team, I’m going to play. It’s not the shirt that score the goals.”
Ighalo also expressed his belief in Napoli star Osimhen, stating that he is the number one striker and will not take Osimhen’s place.
“Before I left the national team, I personally called Osimhen and said I’m leaving, this position is for you and if you work hard you’re going to rule Nigeria for a long time.”
I’m happy to see him doing well and I’m here to support him.”
“And before I came back, I told the coach’ Osimhen is the number one striker, I will just support in whatever way you want me to support and I’m here to do that,” he added.
With the likely absence of Osimhen for the 2021 AFCON, which starts on January 9, Ighalo could become Nigeria’s top hitman again.
However, it is left to be seen if a Gernot Rohr remains manager of the Super Eagles or if a new manager would prefer a younger player in Europe.