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Kelechi Iheanacho is the future of Nigerian football. It is as simple and straightforward as that. The 18 year old attacking midﬁelder has shown beyond any reasonable doubt the sort of talent he is. Blessed with an eye for a pass, packs a powerful shot and full of trickery. The 2015/2016 season is expected to be his breakout season and he has the pre-‐season tour of Australia to prove himself, not just with Manchester City, but also with the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Name: Kelechi Iheanacho
Position: Attacking Midﬁeld/Centre Forward
Club: Manchester City
‘Nacho’s’ talent has never been in doubt. He was always set for great things and it is only a matter of time before he fulﬁls that big potential of his. A product of Nigeria’s U17 class of 2013, he was very instrumental in Nigeria winning that year’s FIFA U17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and it was no surprise he ended up as the tournament’s best player. He is touted to be the long term replacement for Augustine ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha in the Nigeria set-‐up but ﬁrst he has to prove he can be the player everybody believes he can be.
He is presently in Australia with City and started in their 2-‐0 win over Adelaide in their ﬁrst pre-‐ season game of the 2015/2016 season. Work permit and injuries delayed his introduction to the ﬁrst team last season after an impressive pre-‐season in the United States, but is expected to feature in Manuel Pellegrini’s plans for the new season.
“Manchester City will not send him on loan. Plan A, B and C is for him to remain with the club next season,” a City oﬃcial told the Manchester Evening News in June.
Even Pellegrini himself acknowledges how good the 18-‐year old is, and spoke of how good he can be in the future.
“A very important player for us in the future,” Pellegrini was quoted in the Manchester Evening News.
Pellegrini added: “It depends on the way he takes this profession, but I think he’s a good talent.”
Iheanacho is a rare breed. Not the fastest of players, but he is blessed with a perfect close control. Besides being a traditional attacking midﬁelder, he can also play in a variety of positions in the attack. He has featured severally for the City youth teams as a wide attacker, a centre forward and as a second striker. Naturally a left-footer, he is quite comfortable with the ball on his right, and scores quite an awful lot of goals for a player who isn’t a natural centre forward.
He has played nine games in FIFA competitions – the U17 and U20 World Cups and has scored six goals in those games (ﬁfa.com) -‐ an incredible average of 1.5 goals per game in those competitions!
Due to injuries, he only featured ﬁve times for the Manchester City youth teams last season, and scored three goals, including a wonderful solo eﬀort against rivals Manchester United in the FA Youth Cup – which is an average of 1.6 goals a game – and he also made two assists.
According to transfermarkt.com, Iheanacho has a contract with Manchester City until the summer of 2016, but no clubs have really made serious eﬀorts to get him since he joined the former English champions. He was linked with Portuguese giants, FC Porto, before opting for City and he was almost sent on loan to MLS side, Columbus Crew, but injuries meant that didn’t happen.
“I am working hard to keep myself ﬁt and also to break into the ﬁrst team. It is not going to be easy because there are a lot of international players in the ﬁrst so I just have to be patient and keep working hard,” he told Chris Oguguo for sl10.ng in June, 2014.
Written by Chris Oguguo
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisOguguo
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