A mounting rap sheet has grown further with the questionable call to bring the forward out of retirement.
Reports swirling over the last fortnight or thereabouts were eventually affirmed on Monday with Odion Ighalo’s inclusion in Nigeria’s 24-man squad for November’s international break.
In reality, this wasn’t a secret as the player revealed to ESPN he’d been approached by the Nigeria Football Federation president, Amaju Pinnick, and Super Eagles boss, Gernot Rohr.
“They have been in contact with me about the possibility of coming back, Amaju and coach,” Ighalo told ESPN.
“I don’t know. I have not said yes or no. I haven’t made any decision concerning the national team.”
This seemed like a player keeping his cards close to his chest, particularly as Rohr had revealed conversations were being had about a potential return for the former Manchester United frontman.
“The final list is not made yet,” Rohr said. “But there is a chance to get him back. I put him on the bigger provisional list for the next games because he is very important with his experience and his goals and I hope he can come back, but we will see. He has still the ambition to help his country.”
On the one hand, you understand why the Al Shabab marksman is a favorite of the German tactician. He netted a plethora of important goals during Nigeria’s upswing in the mid-to-late 2010s which culminated with ending top scorer at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
However, a whole lot has transpired since Ighalo opted to retire from the national team with the country birthing a crop of center-forwards that’s made this move utterly unnecessary.
Victor Osimhen’s now the leader of this group, leading from the front with his tenacity, movement off the ball and an unwillingness to let opposing defenders breathe. He’s added goals to the mix, too, notably ending joint-top scorer in Africa Cup of Nations qualification with five, along with Patson Daka.
Kelechi Iheanacho’s recovered from being on the periphery to playing a dual role in Rohr’s system and the Leicester City man has been mostly decisive for the Super Eagles since the turn of the year.
Outside the aforementioned pair are a wealth of options: Paul Onuachu, Terem Moffi, Sadiq Umar, Taiwo Awoniyi and Emmanuel Dennis, many of whom are playing in Europe’s top five leagues with the others plying their trades in competitive European divisions.
Thus, it beggars belief that only Onuachu was deemed worthy of inclusion among an eight-man forward line that also includes Ahmed Musa.
Of course, you can mitigate for Moffi’s exclusion: the Lorient forward hasn’t scored or contributed to any goal since early September and statistics reveal a significant drop off in the accuracy of his shooting from an impressive debut season in Ligue 1.
He hasn’t pulled up trees lately and a six-game drought demonstrates this.
However, leaving out Awoniyi and, to a lesser extent, Dennis for an Ighalo return and continued Musa inclusion appears ridiculous and inane.
The red-hot Union Berlin frontman is currently one of Europe’s deadliest marksmen and, until last week’s blank against Bayern Munich, had netted in seven games on the trot.
Dennis, despite an inclination to drift out of games, has broadly been decisive for struggling Watford. Not only has the former Club Brugge forward silenced critics to an extent, but he leads the way for goal involvements (six) from nine appearances (eight starts).
Unsurprisingly, the reaction has been mostly negative with the frustration over Rohr’s approach rising a notch.
The German was extolled after he revived the national team in the mid-2010s but a lack of tactical nous, poor in-game management and perceived favoritism in recent years has elicited non-stop opprobrium.
This Ighalo move undoubtedly takes the cake!
Seye Omidiora is a passionate football writer and pundit whose deep appreciation for the beautiful game exceeds the usual. He is currently a columnist for Goal Africa and has previously written for Vital Football UK, IBCity Info and Opera News.
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