Iheanacho, a super star in the making
Kelechi Iheanacho was always going to be a star. Most Nigerians never doubted his precocious and prodigious talent as soon as they watched him play for the Golden Eaglets.
Along with Prince Izu Omego, Yahaya Umar, Ifeanyi Matthew and Success Isaac, Iheanacho was among the brightest sparks as Nigeria finished second at the 2013 African U-17 Championship in Morocco.
However, powerful striker, Isaac was widely regarded at the time as Nigeria’s best player but fate was to play a role in Iheanacho’s rise to prominence.
Four goals in Nigeria’s opening game at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup against Mexico coupled with an unfortunate injury to Isaac in the next group game against Sweden meant the burden of expectations was now heavily laid on the shoulders of Iheanacho.
He did not disappoint. He led from the front with several inspirational displays and also weighed in with his fair share of crucial goals as Nigeria won the U17 title for a record fourth time.
Iheanacho’s eye-catching displays did not go unnoticed as he was named winner of the golden ball-accolade reserved for best player of the tournament.
It was only a matter of time before he joined a big European side and Manchester proved to be his destination.
The City manager, Manuel Pellegrini is a wily, shrewd individual with a sharp eye for unheralded talent and he wasted no time in throwing Iheanacho into the deep and against Kansas City in City’s opening pre-season game.
Iheanacho did not let the Chilean down as he completely ran the show with a display that typified class, ease of movement, quick thinking and impeccable passing.
The teenager shone against Kansas, dictating play for City, testing the opposition goalkeeper with several blistering drives.
He struck the final nail in the coffin of the MLS leaders with a well-taken fourth goal as City ran out 4-1 winners.
Pellegrini was effusive in his praise of the 17-year-old after the game as he described him as “the future’ of the club.
“Kelechi is just 17 years old and he’s a very important player for us in the future.
“He demonstrated today what he can do in the future. It depends on the way he takes this profession, but I think he’s a good talent,” the former Real Madrid Boss said. Iheanacho excels as deep-lying number 10, and is seemingly most effective playing behind the striker. As he proved against Kansas City, he has a very keen eye for a pass and is blessed with wonderful creativity for a player so young. He however declared that many felt he did not have a future as a professional footballer.
“A lot of the boys thought maybe I was too small, too skinny to be a good player. But I realised now with that God is preparing something special for me,” he said.
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