Sport Guard

March 31, 2019

Iheanacho’s troubled career

Kelechi Iheanacho

By Patrick Omorodion

President of the Living Faith Church aka Winners Chapel, Dr David Oyedepo said that one’s attitude determines his or her altitude. To be a high flyer, you must have a sound discipline and behaviour otherwise you may never rise or your rise may be shortlived.

Kelechi Iheanacho

Kelechi Iheanacho

That is the story of former 22-year old junior international and Super Eagles forward, Kelechi Promise Iheanacho whose rise to fame was meteoric.

The Imo-born player was an unknown quantity before his appearance as a youth player for Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets. At the 2013 African U-17 Championship in Morocco, Iheanacho, shone brightly when he scored a hat-trick in a win against Botswana.

He didn’t stop there as he was part of the the same team which went on to win the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup. He scored six goals to win the Golden Boot.

These opened the doors for his sojourn to England where he was snatched by the Premiership side, Manchester City. As he was not 18 yet, he signed for Man City Academy in January 2014. Even though he was not yet a full City player, he was picked to join them in the pre-season tour of United States and did so well.

READ ALSO: Iheanacho: Leicester City coach disagrees with Rohr

After the 2015 pre-season tour of Australia where he impressed, Iheanacho was drafted to the senior July. One month after, on August 10, he made his debut as a first team player. From then on, he found favour with the club’s coach, Manuel Pellegrini and he didn’t disappoint the Italian.

Even though his profile rose, Iheanacho did not display the spirit of a team player. Such was that even when he scores at Man City, he celebrated alone away from onrushing team-mates who want to pat him on the back or head for his feat.

That singular attitude created some problem for him as it seemed. Teammates started distancing themselves from him and he increasingly started becomimg lonely. Balls were no longer going to him and his goal scoring prowess started dwindling.

The arrival of  Pep Guardiola changed Iheanacho’s fortunes in Man City. He started off well with the former Barcelona FC handler who even talked him out of playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Olympic Football event in Brazil.

He even started Iheanacho in the Manchester derby that period and mother luck smiled on the Imo-born player as he was rewarded with a goal at Old Trafford. Such opportunities didn’t last long as he started having less playing time until he was relegated to the bench maybe mainly because he didn’t fit into Guardiola’s style.

Matters became worse for him when Man City completed the signing of Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus from Palmeiras in a deal worth £27m. Jesus formed a perfect pair with Argentine goal machine, Segio Kun Aguero and Iheanacho became surplus to requirement. At that stage, the next best option for him was to move on.

He landed at another Premiership club, Leicester City, who were surprised League Champions a couple of years back, where he joined his compatriot, Wilfred Onyinyen Ndidi who was warming his way into the hearts of both the management and fans for his play and composure.

At Leicester City, his Nigerian fans who were enjoying his knack for goals in the colours of the Super Eagles, expected him to up his game and command a regular shirt at the club. This hope faded with the same momentum they had nursed it and the fans wondered what had gone wrong with the once mercurial Iheanacho who was praised by football commentators in the Premiership.

The young player who was once tipped to be part of the new Super Eagles Gernot Rohr was gradually building for the future started gaining weight. Was it due to lack of playing time and spending too much time on the bench or that he was not training enough? Nobody could say precisely what the problem was.

This affected him in the Super Eagles as he struggled to impress in the few matches he was invited to play. And then suddenly, Iheanacho started missing in action and was no longer found in the radar of Rohr who has kept trying out new players.

Unlike some young players in the Super Eagles who are accessible, Iheanacho let the little success he achieved get the best of him. He hardly opens up to both fans and the Media and shuns them even as his colleagues embraced them.

Now the prospect of Iheanacho being listed for the 2019 Africa Nations Cup is dim. Rohr is not too enthusiastic about icluding him in his plan if his recent statement is anything to go by. Speaking in an interview, Rohr said this of Iheanacho: “I am not really satisfied with his performance and his professionalism. I am not being funny about this and I expect him to show more desire in this regard quickly”.

Already in England, tongues are wagging among football pundits that Iheanacho has not been listed among the roll call of players in the English Premier League that are set to star for their respective countries at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. He and no one else is going to be the loser.