Victor Osimhen…‘learner’ at Egypt 2019 AFCON, Africa’s best in France
No doubt, one of the most improved African players since Egypt 2019 AFCON is Super Eagles and Lille of France striker, Victor Osimhen.
In Egypt, Osimhen, who was then playing for Sporting Charleroi in the Belgian Jupiler, featured for just 45 minutes in the third-place match against Tunisia, which the Super Eagles won 1-0 at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo.
While his teammates, the team’s technical crew and other officials were busy celebrating the ‘golden bronze,’ Osimhen sat in a corner at the Le Meridian Cairo Airport hotel gazing into the future. He was not in the mood for any interview when two foreign journalists, who came hunting for news at the hotel, approached him.
“I am happy we won the third place match, but sorry I am not in the mood for a long interview right now. Maybe tomorrow,” Osimhen told the camera-waving journalists.
However, about 30 minutes later, The Guardian approached Osimhen for a ‘brief chat,’ which he reluctantly obliged to, but with an appeal: “It is getting late into the night, and you have to be fast.”
During the ‘brief chat,’ Osimhen spoke gleefully on Nigeria’s third-place finish, saying it was a huge success. But he insisted that Egypt 2019 AFCON was a major learning process for him and some other young players.
“I am delighted to have gained some valuable senior tournament experience in this competition,” he told The Guardian. “Everyone, particularly myself, is still in the process of learning. It is on record I played my first AFCON here in Egypt 2019. This is the biggest stage in African football and it is a massive achievement for me,” he stated.
In 2015, Osimhen emerged the Golden Boot winner at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile. He netted 10 goals.
To Osimhen, Egypt 2019 AFCON was a stepping-stone for his generation. “We own this space, and in the future we are going to dominate the African Nations Cup. So the experiences I gathered here in Egypt will surely help me,” he stated.
In less than a year after Egypt 2019 AFCON, Osimhen has become the talking point in football, not only in Africa but the world at large. He has suddenly become one of the most sought-after players in European football.
Many Nigerian football fans have tipped Victor Osimhen as the likely replacement for Manchester United striker, Odion Ighalo, in the Super Eagles.
The 21-year-old forward is expected to lead Nigeria’s quest for goals when hostilities begin at the Cameroun 2021 AFCON tournament.
Perhaps, the biggest achievement for Osimhen this year was his emergence as the best African player in the French Ligue 1.
At 21, the Lagos-born striker became the youngest-ever recipient of the Prix Marc Vivien-Foe, named in honour of the late Cameroun player, who died aged 28 in 2003.
Interestingly, Osimhen, who succeeded 2019 winner Nicolas Pepe at Lille, is also the second Nigerian to win the top honour after Enyeama emerged African Best player in France in 2014. Pepe left Lille for Arsenal.
Osimhen won the award ahead of established Monaco’s Algerian striker Islam Slimani and Reims’ Moroccan Yunis Abdelhamid.
He scored 13 goals with four assists in 27 Ligue 1 matches for Lille before the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the clubs begging for Victor Osimhen’s signature is Italian side Napoli, which has put €80 million on the table. Other top managers, including Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool, are waiting to grab Osimhen should the move to Italy fail.
The Nigerian arrived in Napoli earlier this week to meet with Gennaro Gattuso, though, there are reports that the player has still not made his mind up, despite taking a tour of the club’s facilities.
Osimhen had initially ruled out a move to Napoli back in April after some individuals allegedly warned him to be careful in his choice of club. However, with an astonishing €80 million plus bonuses on the table, Osimhen may wave aside all warning from any quarter.
Lille appears eager for Osimhen to accept the offer from Napoli. Last summer, the Nigerian cost just €12m, when he left his former club Charleroi to Lille.
Now, the Belgian club have a sell-on percentage fee clause, and the amount they can make from the deal to Napoli has been intelligently capped at the €6 million mark.
If Osimhen joins Napoli, the deal would represent the biggest transfer in the club’s history, overtaking the amount expended on Gonzalo Higuain in 2013, €39m. The situation that Osimhen faces resembles that of Nicolas Pepe last summer, who moved to Arsenal for €80m. Rather than seeking to move to one of Europe’s top five clubs, where he might only receive minutes off the bench, Osimhen is leaning towards favouring a move to a club where his footballing project is best for him.
There is also interest from other clubs, including Inter Milan.
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