It is now no longer news that Super Eagles returnee Odion Ighalo has won the West Asia player of the month of October after his impressive performance for his Saudi Arabia club, Al-Shabab.
Ighalo continues to show that he reserves the hunger for the game as his appetite for scoring goals remainings as voracious as ever. This week, it was rumoured that coach Gernot Rohr placed Russia based Brian Idowu, 29 years old, on standby should left fullback Jamilu Collins fail to be fit for the November games due to a minor knock. This speculation came as a shock to many as it would suggest that Idowu sits above Rangers flamboyant fullback Calvin Bassey in the Super Eagles pecking order of left fullbacks. Whatever happened to Ebuehi who played that role with distinction on the lead to the 2018 world cup and is currently playing well bin the Italy Serie A?
For a coach that touts his “young” team, it is curiously counterintuitive to have overlooked young exciting strikers in mainstream Europe for a pensioner in the Middle East (a trend that would have continued if an older Idowu was indeed invited instead of a younger Bassey – all that is academic for now as Collins recovered and is already in camp). For a coach who claims Nigeria cannot win the world cup because we don’t have enough players playing for glamorous clubs in glamorous leagues Europe, dropping Awoniyi and overlooking Dessers or Umar in favour of Ighalo seems to fly in the face of the Rohr’s own theory. But, it is results that matter ultimately. And the Ighalo I watch on occasions this season still very much looks sharp in front of goal. I have no doubt that Ighalo has it in him to be potentially impactful for the Super Eagles in months to come. In truth, Rohr never really accepted Ighalo’s (and Victor Moses’) resignation. The door was always open if he changed his mind. But the way we were led to believe, Ighalo didn’t change his mind unilaterally, he was approached and asked to come back. Come back at a time we have great precocious young strikers itching to write their names in the stars for Nigeria.
It is clear that Ighalo seems to have unfinished business with the Super Eagles as his boss (Rohr) indicates that the job of the striker is not done yet! So long as he retains his drive and determination, Ighalo might yet settle the dust surrounding his invitation and return with key goals for Nigeria. Will that placate many fans? I doubt it. His goals in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers and the Afcon itself was not enough to appease many fans (including myself) who were only relieved when he announced his retirement at the end of the tournament. However well does this time around, the reaction and reception will most likely be the same: ‘thanks for your service to fatherland but we are not altogether too unhappy to see you go!’