Instantly promoted to the senior squad of Manchester City FC after 2 goals and 2 assists in 3 matches during pre-season tour in 2015, the future seemed brighter than the midday sun for the then 19 year old Kelechi Iheanacho.
In fact, by the end of that season, he would go on to have the best goals-per-minute ratio of any player averaging a goal every 93.9 minutes.
In all competitions for Man City, the 2013 FIFA Under 17 world cup winner finished with a record of 14 goals and 5 assists from 35 appearances, although he only started 11 of these.
These days, Iheanacho just about makes the bench for lowly Leicester City football club where he has managed no premier league goal in a mere 9 appearances for the club he joined in August 2017.
His enforced departure from the now-seemingly runaway champions of the English Premier League was because coach Pep Guardiola felt the need to rid the club of players he believed could not help him hit his target of winning the premier league in style.
A move to Leicester City from Man City, while did not represent progress in the face of it, at least held the promise of more regular game time – and goals – for Iheanacho. If he could have managed to break into a high quality Man City squad, it should be as easy as drinking a glass of water for him to be a regular team member and score for fun at Leicester, right?
Wrong! It has not happened quite like that.
So, what is going wrong?
Iheanacho burst into the football scene in the 2013 FIFA Under 17 World Cup – where he was voted the best player of the tournament – as creative attacking midfielder whose tactical awareness, presence of mind, calmness in possession, delicious distribution of passes and contribution of goals helped Nigeria win the tournament.
His movements, vison and ability to support the main striker with through (aerial and ground) balls also make him an excellent support striker.
Kelechi's 12 goals in 46 appearances for Manchester City over 2 seasons also attest to his goal scoring prowess however, many fans continue to be of the opinion that he should be played as either a midfielder or a support striker with creating goal scoring chances – and not actually scoring goals – as his key performance indicator.
Many have likened him to his former team mate, Kevin De Bruyne of Man City and Belgium whose world class ball distributions and creation of goal scoring chances are a joy to watch and deadly for opponents.
For reasons best known to them, coaches in Manchester City, Leicester City and the Nigerian national teams have chosen to play Iheanacho as a main striker.
De Bruyne is 26 years old and Iheanacho is only 21 with years on his side. It was not that long ago that De Bruyne was rejected by Chelsea. He had a bit of a rough patch, but things have now come together for him – big time.
So, is Iheanacho regressing? The simple answer is no. You only have to critically evaluate his game to come to the conclusion that he has quality and great potentials.
I believe, just like De Bruyne some seasons ago, Iheanacho is having a rough patch. He is expected to discover himself in a big way and live up to his potentials in a not-so-distant future.